By Tom Carpenter, director, Waste Management
Design with Intent. Every time I go to the store to purchase a product, I’m struck by how many
examples of products and packaging I see that are virtually impossible to recycle because of
choices made in the design of the item. Why even last week I spent a day with Wal-Mart Sr.
Leadership and Buyers walking a SAM’s Club Store reviewing the many products and packages
that simply fall short.
I’m sure we’ve all seen countless examples of the tons (literally) of valuable material lost due to
products being difficult to recycle based on what they’re made of, the limitations of the recycling
infrastructure or being difficult for the consumer to recycle easily. Things like packaging, toys
and office supplies, for example, can all pose challenges to recycling, composting or disassembly
based on choices made in design.
Because WM is the nation’s largest recycler, we see and manage all of these difficult-to-recycle
materials on a daily basis. So, who better than WM to help our customers make educated decisions
when designing their products to help ensure a positive second use cycle?
Sustainability Services (WMSS) understands how this issue affects our customers, and we’re working
with them to Design with Intent. The concept of Design with Intent is an approach to product design
that takes practical recyclability of products into consideration in the design phase, helping ensure that
valuable resources are recoverable after a product’s initial usefulness by being mindful of material
selection, ease of disassembly and recycling infrastructure capabilities.
Our consultants work to advise customers on strategies to design better products through intelligent
material choice, understanding how our material recovery facilities (MRFs) work, and how the market
can effect what can be recycled. Helping our customers Design with Intent has three key benefits that
line up very nicely with our Three Pillars:
Knowing the Customer.
Understanding the customer so well that we become a strategic partner in the design of their products
and expand our business opportunities
Extracting More Value.
Working to phase out undesirable material selection can lead to sustainability success and more
valuable material entering our MRFs.
Innovating and Optimizing.
Partnering with our customers to promote innovative design choices that differentiate them in the
marketplace and communicate true commitments to sustainability.
This is an exciting opportunity for us to make a valuable impact on our customers and improve the recyclability
and the quality of the materials we manage. As WMSS continues to work with customers to Design with Intent,
I hope that you and I both see more opportunities to recycle and less frustration when we’re out at the store.