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Designing Products for the Circular Economy

Tyler, David and Han, Sara (2019) Designing Products for the Circular Economy. In: Technology-driven Sustainability: Innovation in the Fashion Supply chain. Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 93-116. ISBN 978-3-030-15482-0

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Abstract

Until recent years, apparel product design has been undertaken with very little reference to environmental sustainability. However, the legislative framework has increasingly constrained design decisions relating to the use of hazardous chemicals, especially with the advent of REACH regulations within the EU. Most companies now recognise a large number of chemical substances that are prohibited in the dyeing and finishing of textiles. This dominates thinking about design for the environment. The increasing adoption of environmental management systems has expanded the vision for initiatives promoting sustainability, including laundering and care. Principles are recognised for product design and development that lead to more sustainable goods and services. In some industries, regulations require producer to take responsibility for the disposal of products companies release to the market. This obligation has triggered thinking about design for disassembly and design for disposal. This development has accelerated the adoption of circular economy concepts. The EU has not implemented producer responsibility in apparel, although some companies have voluntarily championed circular economy initiatives. However, the business models of most apparel companies have nothing to say about end-of-life issues. This chapter is concerned with new product development processes that incorporate Design for Environment and Design for Disassembly and Disposal. As there are numerous technical issues to address, a team-based product development process has many advantages, whereby garment designers work alongside specialists from other disciplines. This process requires culture change to be embraced by most brand owners, and a departure from the practice of separating the design process from the product development process. In most cases, changes of this nature bring disruption to a globalised industrial sector. Case studies will be considered that illustrate the concepts developed in this chapter. In particular, the French experience of adopting producer responsibility for apparel goods is considered. The accredited organisation ECO TLC exhibits strength in the promotion of sustainability projects, but there is a fundamental weakness in that culture change in the design process of brand owners is hard to discern.

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