Designing a sustainable product from electronic plastic waste : A study in how an environmentally friendly product can be developed with a discarded material as the starting point

University essay from Linköpings universitet/Maskinkonstruktion


The aim of the thesis was to show that it is possible to develop a sustainable product of a discarded material and provide a framework for how to do that. A great amount of discarded material is today put on landfill due to its low value and difficulties to use. But putting the waste on landfill is the least preferred way of handling it, especially when the resources in the world are not infinite. It is therefore of importance that we find another way of handling the discarded material, which is why this thesis was written. 

During the work has a qoute by McDonough and Braungart (2002) been kept in mind, reminding us, as product designers,  of the responsibilty we have  for future generations well-being. 

“How can we love the children of all species– not just our own – for all time?” – McDonough and Braungart. 2002. Remaking the way we want things, pp 168.

This thesis consisted of three phases. In phase 1 the plastic WEEEBR (a recycled plastic blend from waste from electrical and electronic equipment) was evaluated and a suitable product for it was found. Phase 2 started with a market research trying to find a market opportunity for that product. Thereafter several concepts for the product was developed. The last phase, phase 3, analyzed and evaluated the two previous phases in order to summarize the process and develop a method for how to put requirements on future products.  

Phase 1 and 2 are shortly described, thereafter follows the analysis of them. The proposed method are exemplified with concepts and results from phase 1 and 2. The result of the thesis was a method based on following 6 steps:

  1. Agree to the company’s vision
  2. Evaluate what available material you have
  3. Evaluate your technical possibilites with the material
  4. Highlight a market possibility
  5. Set product requirements
  6. Develop the concept

This method is generic and shall be used as a guide when developing sustainable products. Developing sustainable products include thinking about what material you have. It is worth thinking about if the product shall be produced locally, with local material and also how the material should be handled after it is used and at last where it ends up. 

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