Products with Integrated Disposal Instructions

Dr. Heiko H. Stutzke

March, 2020

 

Most of the products we use today have to meet a variety of requirements: They are supposed to do what they were made for, for a long time and reliably, and they should be comfortable and compact as well, look chic, and send a message before a problem occurs. They should be connected to the (Wi-Fi) network and the Internet, be always up-to-date, and communicate with each other. And we expect them to operate largely independently in production and soon also on the road.

To enable all these functions, goods and products contain a variety of different materials. These include metals, rare earths, and plastics. They are often combined in such a way that a targeted replacement of individual parts or a dismantling is difficult - or impossible altogether. Of course, this is not a real challenge before they have reached the end of their lifespan, but at this point, the question arises how recycling can be achieved without burning valuable substances or letting them end up in landfill. Unfortunately, exactly this is still the case far too often today. However, the aim must be to return the materials contained into the material cycle.

So, what if each product were basically optimized not only for its function, but also for subsequent disposal? Our concept for "products with integrated disposal instructions" makes this possible:

 

  • Each product is designed in a way that disassembly and recovery of materials is possible with comparatively simple means.
  • The (raw) materials and materials contained are registered in terms of quantity and the places where you find them in the product.
  • In addition to the design plan, a disposal plan with a suitable level of detail is also created.
  • With this information, the product is registered in a "disposal database". This can, in the first step, be a database of the manufacturer, and later a nationwide register. The product receives a QR code through which the disposal instructions can easily be retrieved, if required.

 

This sounds as simple as it makes sense, but it is undoubtedly a complex matter. For example, a legal basis is needed that regulates all the activities and makes labelling mandatory for all producers. Copyrights and other rights must be protected. And there is certainly a lot more to plan for. But we can start as simple as possible and later extend the new system.

There is one thing we can certainly achieve with this concept: We are one step closer to a real circular economy, and the waste management industry is becoming an even stronger supplier of raw materials than before.

 

About the Author

 

Dr. Heiko H. Stutzke is a graduate economist and managing partner of Strategiebüro Nord (Strategy Office North) in Germany.

 

Strategiebüro Nord works for companies and organizations in the private and public sector, for founders and for companies at the beginning of their development.

 

Our focus is on individual challenges and questions that often arise from the trends of our time. We take up the planning and the team-oriented strategic moderation to find good solutions. The result of our work are strategic actions and goals ensuring long-term success.

 

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