Designed for easy reuse

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Reusable products have a much lower impact on the environment than single-use ones. They must be strong and able to withstand cleaning. A good example is a jam jar that’s designed to be reused as a drinking glass once the jam is finished. It’s durable and can be used repeatedly for years before being recycled.

‘Lapel’ chair

Chair, ‘Lapel’, plastic, designed and made by Stuart McFarlane, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 2009.

This chair is an example of an Australian made product that has been designed and manufactured to minimise its negative impact on the environment.

The ‘Lapel’ chair is produced by folding 100% recycled plastic, therefore using no glues or screws in its production. The chair can be dismantled easily for recycling at the end of its useful life. It has also been produced so that it can be shipped ‘flat-packed’, thus reducing its environmental impact when being transported.

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Zaishu seat

Zaishu Seat
Seat, Zaishu, ‘Looking for water’, wood / paint, designed by Matthew Butler and Julie Paterson, made by Zaishu Pty Ltd, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia / Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 2004-2007.

Zaishu is a Japanese-inspired, print-decorated plywood seat of laser-cut components that can be flat-packed and assembled without glue or nails. Zaishu was conceived by the Australia designer Matthew Butler of Bluesquare design in 2004 and first launched using stencilled street artwork at Melbourne’s Australian Centre for Contemporary Art. Since then the commercial Zaishu range has expanded to include versions of the stool printed with 1970s wallpaper designs by Florence Broadhurst, botanical prints by Melbourne-based Spacecraft Studio and most recently abstract designs by Julie Paterson of Cloth, Sydney.

An important aspect of Zaishu has been the ‘Zaishu Project’, an international initiative based on a number of collaborative, interactive projects with artists, designers and communities in Europe and India. This international dimension to Zaishu has been described by Butler as ‘a program of participation, creativity, responsibility and evolution…an international collaborative event, recording patterns, designs and cultural texture from around the world on sheets of plantation-grown veneer.’ Several of these projects, notably those in Sweden and India in 2006, have also generated revenue for charitable causes.

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Electric kettle

Electric kettle
Electric kettle, packaging, instruction book, ‘Axis’ cordless, Powerhouse Museum Selection 1995, RMIT EcoReDesign project, plastic/paper/metal, Gerry Mussett & Paul Taylor ‘Form Design/MEC-Kambrook, Melbourne, 1996.

This kettle is an early example of ecodesign in Australia. It was the first product to result from the first organised, industry based ecodesign program in Australia, conducted by the RMIT National Centre for Design and the Energy Research Development Corporation, (part of the Environment Protection Agency) during 1994-1996.

Every part of the kettle, including the wiring, can be easily disassembled for repair or reuse. The number of materials, fused materials, screws and welding are kept to a minimum to enable separation and sorting for recycling.

By 2005 design for disassembly had become a widely used design strategy, driven by the introducion of legislation in Europe and elsewhere requiring producers to take responsibility for the recovery, treatment and recycling of used electronic appliances.

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The Powerhouse Museum has collected examples of design for more than 130 years. This database shows how some items in its collection meet one or more criteria for design for the environment.

Sustainable design database topics:

Designed for easy reuse
Designed for energy efficiency
Designed for service substitution
Designed to be degradable
Designed to last
Designed to minimise packaging
Designed to use recycled materials
Designed to use renewable resources
Designed to use waste by-products

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