Design and the material cycle : an investigation into secondary material use in design practice
Since the UK government's Waste Strategy was introduced in 2000 there has been sustained emphasis on the diversion of waste material from landfill and it has been acknowledged that stable markets for secondary materials must be developed to ensure that the resources used to recover them are not expended needlessly. This thesis looks at the issues surrounding a designer's ability to select secondary materials for the production of new artefacts and proposes a new framework for supporting that activity. While in the past recycled materials have mainly been used either for highly visible 'one-offs' or hidden components the stance taken here is that both creative design and volume production are essential for stable markets in the short term and effective materials cycles in the future. Therefore product and industrial design was the initial focus of this research. The investigation involved three empirical enquiries: Enquiry 1 employed a survey method to explore the design scenario of product and industrial designers and its influence on their ability to select secondary materials. Enquiries 2 & 3 looked at the issues involved in recovering and using secondary materials (focusing on plastic in London), and the tools currently available to support designers. The primary research suggests that the scenario of product and industrial design consultants is not generally conducive to the consideration and use of secondary materials. Specifications for two tools that could improve the situation are proposed: 1) to build knowledge and awareness of secondary materials, and; 2) to improve materials information for design. However the issues with using secondary materials in design practice are manifold and so the research concludes with a framework identifying five central considerations for supporting the use of secondary materials in design practice. This thesis contributes original knowledge in the field of design research by: • proposing specifications for new tools to support the use of secondary materials in design practice; • presenting a range of approaches to sourcing and using secondary materials in design practice; • furthering understanding of the design scenario and how it may inhibit or enable designers to act in specific ways; • challenging existing approaches to material information provision for designers with a new emphasis on dialogue with specialists and the important role of materials librarians.