How Product Design Affects Future Recycling Rates

Past Winners

Some truly innovative products have won the Design for Recycling award in recent years. You’re probably familiar with some of them, while others may be new. Products large and small have received the awards, demonstrating the importance of recycling for everyday consumer products, as well as larger products intended for commercial or industrial use that may not need to be recycled until decades from now.

Coca-Cola’s innovative PlantBottle won the Design for Recycling award in 2010. Photo: Coca-Cola Co.

Coca-Cola’s innovative PlantBottle won the Design for Recycling award in 2010. Photo: Coca-Cola Co.

In 2010, Coca-Cola Co. won the competition with its PlantBottle, which combined 30 percent plant-based PET with traditional plastic. The unique PET is made from sugarcane and molasses, and the bottles can be recycled back into food-grade containers. This innovation significantly reduces the amount of petroleum needed to make the beverage bottles. More recently, Coca-Cola has also partnered with Ford Motor Company to turn some of these bottles into car interiors.

In 2011, the Canadian company Wind Simplicity won the award with its small, easy-to-recycle turbine. Photo: Wind Simplicity

In 2011, the Canadian company Wind Simplicity won the award with its small, easy-to-recycle turbine. Photo: Wind Simplicity

Wind Simplicity received the Design for Recycling award in 2011 for its small Windancer wind turbine. The Canadian company constructed the machine’s blades out of aluminum instead of fiberglass, which is typically used for making blades and is difficult to recycle. The efficient, noise-free turbine was invented in 2004 by father-daughter team Sharolyn Vettese and Alfred Mathieu, PhD, and is intended for retail, municipal, industrial and agricultural uses. Aluminum can be recycled over and over, making it an ideal material, and by opting for the metal instead of fiberglass, Wind Simplicity has made a product that contains less-hazardous materials, too.

Cascades Fine Papers Group, which makes a variety of eco-friendly papers for home, office and commercial use, won a Design for Recycling award by developing a ream wrapper that contains no plastic. Photo: Cascades

Cascades Fine Papers Group, which makes a variety of eco-friendly papers for home, office and commercial use, won a Design for Recycling award by developing a ream wrapper that contains no plastic. Photo: Cascades

In 2012, Cascades Fine Papers Group of Quebec took home the award by developing a ream wrapper made from 100 percent recycled materials that is also completely recyclable. At first glance, you might wonder why a change like this was needed. The problem was that ream wrappers — the outer packaging that holds a stack of paper together — traditionally contained plastic in addition to paper, and those plastic contaminants made it impossible for Cascades to recycle the wrappers. Cascades specializes in ecological fine papers and security papers and saw this innovation as an effective way to lower its environmental impact.

These three award recipients all designed or redesigned their products so that at the end of the product’s life, its components are easier to recycle. This reduces the financial burden that often falls to recyclers when a product is made from hazardous or difficult-to-recycle materials while also building consumer confidence. By keeping recyclability in mind during the design process, manufacturers can continue to help increase recycling rates.

This year, ISRI will present the Design for Recycling award to a new winner at the ISRI 2014 Convention & Exposition in April.

Read more: What Is a Producer’s Responsibility?

Editor’s Note: Earth911 partners with many industries, manufacturers and organizations to support its Recycling Directory, the largest in the nation, which is provided to consumers at no cost. ISRI is one of these partners.

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Comments

  1. LOL Coke bottle is 30% plants? Let’s see would that be the 30% of the plastic that comes from the oil that comes from the dead plants and dinosaurs? ;) So that would be 70% dead dinosaurs then.

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