End of product life…it’s something we don’t talk much about - it isn’t studied often and rarely ever is it a topic broached with consumers during research - It has that morbid overtone that only trash collectors and recyclers would take interest in. We certainly don’t want a consumer to think a product would ever stop working!
I’ve always been impressed with across-the-board European recycling - the mindset of the EU is in proper form on this topic. But here in the States there’s a sharp drop in recycling directly related to any rise in efforts required TO recycle (ie, we’re lazy and our recycling infrastructure is in catch up mode).
Do you recycle your plastic milk jugs and drink bottles?
If you have to take off the cap will you still recycle the bottle?
If you have to take off the cap and rinse the bottle will you still recycle it?
If you have to take off the cap, rinse the bottle and collapse it will you still recycle it?
If you have to take all the recycling a distance for pickup will you still recycle?
Now, how about a product you have to take apart - to recycle even just a few components of it?
During my corporate design life I was always the pesky voice of material identification (much to the chagrin of the rest of our staff). I wanted every piece of recyclable material on our products stamped with it’s identifier code and the recycling symbol - no matter how difficult the product might be to disassemble or how rarely any consumer might actually do it - I saw a long term benefit that would hopefully grow over time. I have the same discussion with our clients now that we’re on the development service side.
Yesterday I took apart and recycled a product I designed in 2004, a pressure washer (we won an Appliance Design award for it and its sister product in 2005) - it had lived a useful life and then some - the pump finally quit (no doubt corrosion related) - most people would just chuck the whole thing but I took it apart, looked for those material identifiers, tossed those pieces in the recycling bin and only trashed what was left. I spent nearly two hours messing with all that but to me it’s worth it.
Am I alone in my quest to save the world one piece of injection molded, blow molded, extruded plastic at a time?