Recycling products and materials when they have served their purpose is an excellent way to protect the environment. But it is not the only way. Goods do not only pollute once they are used: their manufacturing and transport processes also have an impact on the environment. In fact, according to a European Commission study, up to 80% of a product’s lifetime environmental impact is determined at the design stage.
What is the aim of ecodesign?
The aim of ecodesign is to reduce this environmental impact to a minimum. Ecodesign refers to an industrial design methodology that takes into account the environmental impacts of a product during all its life stages, from conception and development to transport and recycling. It is a systemic design approach, which puts environmental protection at its core. It takes into account factors such as the type of distribution, the use of clean energy for production and even the type of marketing of the product.
SINTAC has applied the principles of eco-design from the outset, doing its bit to make the world a better place. All the manufacturing processes, its offices, and the certifications that accredit it such as ISO 14001 and 9001, from circular projects such as Circu, RIGK or CAPEP demonstrate its firm commitment to environmental protection..
What are the 10 golden rules of eco-design?
The following 10 points, compiled by Swedish professors Conrad Luttrop and Jessica Lagerstedt in an article published in the prestigious Science Direct magazine, summarise the rules to be taken into account when applying eco-design to a product.
- Limit toxicity. Avoid the use of toxic substances as much as possible and if they are necessary, integrate them into a circular model to reduce their environmental impact.
- Improve internal management to minimise the use of energy and resources in all industrial processes.
- Reduce product weight by choosing the most optimal designs and materials.
- Reduce energy use. Ecodesign seeks to reduce as much as possible the resources and energy that the user will consume when using the product.
- Design the product so that it can be repaired or improved, thus extending its useful life.
- Optimise the product for longevity. This makes better use of resources and avoids the throwaway model.
- Invest in protecting the product by using durable materials and treatments to protect it from avoidable breakdowns.
- Provide the consumer with the necessary information so that the product can be modernised, repaired and recycled correctly.
- Avoid mixing unnecessary materials as they may affect whether the final product is recyclable or not.
- Use minimal construction elements by looking for smart geometrical solutions, to avoid screws and other similar elements.
What European policies apply to ecodesign?
In 2005, the European Union’s Ecodesign Directive was passed, which sets out the ecological requirements that energy-related products must meet. This decree, extended in 2009, obliges manufacturers to reduce their environmental impact by saving energy, raw materials and resources in their production processes.
It currently affects more than 40 product groups, such as heaters, light bulbs and televisions, which are responsible for 40% of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Another important policy related to eco-design is the Energy Labelling Directive. If you have bought any household appliances or vehicles in the last few years, chances are you have seen a sticker similar to this one. From March 2021, it classifies products on a scale from A to G, with A being the most efficient. Alongside this new labelling policy, new eco-design legislation also came into force, requiring industries to make essential parts of the product available for repair.
What are the advantages of applying eco-design to products?
One of the main advantages is that these products have a minimal impact on the environment. They are products that have a lower price for everyone, as they use the planet’s limited resources more responsibly. By using more efficient production, they also save energy and CO2 emissions, improving everyone’s quality of life.
Eco-design also tends to result in more durable and higher quality products. The throwaway consumption model is one of the most environmentally damaging, which is why sustainable products tend to last longer: it is one of the easiest ways to reduce their impact on the environment.
Products that apply eco-design principles also provide benefits for companies beyond energy and environmental savings.
Eco-design is an added value that meets the demands of consumers who value environmental protection. This innovative methodology can attract a new audience, one that is more demanding in terms of sustainability.
We already know that the most sustainable waste is waste that is not produced. If we want to protect the environment and preserve our limited resources, innovative methodologies such as eco-design must become the standard in production routines.