A recyclable product design for refrigerators/freezers that is both energy and resource efficient is the main goal of CircularByDesign. For this purpose, different scenarios are developed with the focus on repair and reuse as well as recycling paths that are as closed as possible. The combination of the resource efficiency analysis with the technology-oriented "Design for Recycling" model should in future allow the prediction of a product design suitable for complete recycling.
In order to ensure a stable supply of raw materials to the German economy in the future, a rethink in the use of raw materials and in life cycle-wide material flow management is urgently needed. In 2010, for example, only 14 percent of the raw materials used in Germany were obtained from scrap, with recycling costs of over 50 billion euros. For materials such as aluminium, steel or copper, which are found in many consumer goods, in 2016 the proportion of secondary raw materials was just 40 percent in total production in Germany.
One of the main reasons for this is the fact that in the creation of new products (product design), the ability to recycle and recover materials at the end of their life cycle (EoL) has hardly been considered. This is where Circular by Design starts, using a concrete household product to show what material efficiency potential exists with regard to the recovery of the raw materials contained in it, both in terms of constructive product design and the selection of materials.
Laboratory for Design
The first-time combination of the resource efficiency analysis (resource LCA at micro level) and the multi-regional extended input-output model (WI-SEEGIOM, macro level) of the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy as well as the technology-oriented simulation-based "Design for Recycling" model (metal wheel, micro level) of the Helmholtz Institute Freiberg for Resource Technology should allow in future the prediction of a product design suitable for the recycling economy. This will be demonstrated using the example of one of the most frequently used and already well characterized consumer goods, the refrigerator/freezer, with the participation of the producer Liebherr-Hausgeräte. With the involvement of the Folkwang University of the Arts (FUdK), the aim is to run through various scenarios within a living lab design process during the project period. Models are to be designed and simulated whose design allows almost complete recycling and reuse of individual components, thereby opening up new market and business models such as repair, cash-back, leasing, etc.
With the cooperation of the project partners Becker Elektrorecycling (BEC) and Entsorgungsdienste Kreis Mittelsachsen (EKM) and based on the current reference product, which is particularly geared towards energy efficiency, it will be shown by quantifying the actual losses where the raw materials are lost, how these losses can be reduced by a suitable product design and how raw materials can be kept in circulation in the long term.
A transferable design concept for the recycling of the materials used in consumer goods is expected to be developed using the example of a refrigerator/freezer prototype. If one takes a look at the proportion of steel, copper and aluminium, these together represent almost 35 percent of the weight of the refrigerator/freezer to be recycled, plus plastics with a weight share of around 30 percent. This corresponds to a material value of secondary raw materials of around 25 million euros per year, just for the produced tonnage of a refrigerator/freezer producer. This number points to the enormous savings potential that can be achieved by reducing the amount of materials used, substituting non-sustainable materials such as PU foam or coolants, improving the collection of metallic waste and increasing the proportion of secondary raw materials in consumer goods.
Project sheet - in German (August 2019)
The project sheet provides a clear overview of the research project.