For researchers like Lykke Margot Ricard at the University of Southern Denmark, a recycled phone signifies a larger movement. Improving the sustainability of electrical and personal technology products such as smartphones will be a major focus as we continue the transition towards a circular economy in the coming years.
“If we can create products that can be repaired and upgraded – if we could change the batteries in headphones or a smartphone for instance at home – it keeps the items functional and it will also mean we want to keep them longer, reducing waste in the long term,” she explains.
“It all comes back to the design phase. If something is of high quality, if it is beautiful and if there is emotional value in it, there will be a second-hand market for it in the future.”
Thanks to this paradigm shift, we now have: luxury vehicles with a green twist, among others. In the UK, one innovative company is even transforming classic Rolls Royce and Bentley cars for the modern road by converting them to electric-powered engines.
2020s and beyond: Food and drink packaging gets an update
By late-morning, you’re no doubt getting hungry – it’s time to start thinking about what to have for lunch. Increasingly, the packaging your meal comes in can have a big impact on your choices.
Even the label on your beverage has its own carbon footprint. But new innovations are helping to make these vital elements more sustainable, too. One solution to come from UPM is UPM Raflatac Forest FilmTM, a transparent label made from wood-based raw materials. It’s a renewable alternative to plastics but is identical in quality and performance compared to fossil-based films.
In 2022, UPM announced the latest addition to its range of sustainable and recyclable packaging papers for food. UPM Specialty Papers provides papers that can be used to craft food packaging that are renewable from sustainably managed forests, reducing the need for traditional plastics and other fossil fuel materials.
Now, UPM ConfidioTM allows food to be packaged in a way that is moisture and grease-resistant. The packaging paper is repulpable and designed to be recycled with regular fibre-recycling streams, pushing the boundary of what can be packaged in paper, without compromising sustainability or functionality.
Thanks to this paradigm shift, we now have: well-packaged drinks and convenience foods without the guilt that comes with nonrenewable plastic packaging – a recipe for success.
Equitability is in, ownership is out: where will the next milestones take us?
In the future, University of Exeter’s Peter Hopkinson believes we will rent many of the products we love and need to use on a daily basis. Rental companies for clothes, electric cars and other technologies already provide this service, but we could soon live in a world where ownership of even our tools and furniture is passé.
“The aim is to create better designed products that are perhaps more expensive if you had to buy them, but that you can access for a smaller fee for use a number of times,” he says.