Design for the Environment

There are three major elements of design for the environment: design for environmental manufacturing, design for environmental packaging, and design for disposal and recycleability. Design for environmental manufacturing involves the following considerations:

  • Non-toxic processes & production materials
  • Minimum energy utilization
  • Minimize emissions
  • Minimize waste, scrap & by-products

Design for environmental packaging involves the following considerations:

  • Minimum of packaging materials
  • Reusable pallets, totes and packaging
  • Recyclable packaging materials
  • Bio-degradable packaging materials

Design for disposal & recycleability involves the following considerations:

  • Re-use / refurbishment of components & assemblies
  • Material selection to enable re-use (e.g., thermoset plastics vs. thermoplastics) and minimize toxicity
  • Avoids filler material in plastics such as fiberglass and graphite
  • Minimum number of materials / colors to facilitate separating materials and re-use
  • Material identification to facilitate re-use
  • Design to enable materials to be easily separated
  • Design for disassembly (e.g., fracture points, fastening vs. bonding)
  • Avoid use of adhesives
  • Limit contaminants – additives, coatings, metal plating of plastics, etc.
  • Maximize use of recycled or ground material with virgin material
  • Design for serviceability to minimize disposal of non-working products

To support design for recyclability, design for dis-assembly needs to be addressed. Design for disassembly enhances maintainability or serviceability of a product, and it enables recycling of materials, component parts, assemblies, and modules. There are a number of principles to facilitate disassembly:

  • Provide ready access to parts, fasteners, etc. to support disassembly.
  • Design modular products to enable modules to be disassembled for service or re-use.
  • Minimize weight of individual parts and modules to facilitate disassembly.
  • Use joining and fastening techniques to facilitate disassembly (e.g., fasteners instead of adhesives)
  • Minimize fragile parts and leads to enable re-use and re-assembly.
  • Use connectors instead of hard-wired connections.
  • Design to enable use of common hand tools for disassembly.

BMW’s 1991 Z1 Roadster, whose plastic side panels come apart like the halves of a walnut shell, is an example of a car designed for disassembly. One of the lessons learned is that glue or solder in bumpers should be replaced with fasteners so that the bumpers can come apart more easily and the materials can be recycled. BMW is also changing instrument panels. In the past they were made of an assortment of synthetics glued together. Now BMW uses variations of polyurethane, foam, and rubber so the panel can be recycled. The portion of a car recycled is 80% by weight and BMW is aiming for 95%.