Friday, 14 June 2013

Making things last

Prevention, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Recover, and only a last resort Reject - the so-called waste hierarchy.

As we move towards the circular economy we need to stop using virgin materials and make mainstream the reuse of existing processed materials, whether by becoming more ingenious in how we reuse them, or thinking as we design about how their future reuse.

We are now taking part in a couple of TSB funded research projects exploring these themes.

In the REFab House project we are working with EcoBond Cymru, ASBP, C-Tech Innovation, and Bangor University to explore how houses might be designed to promote greater reuse of their materials.

The Steel Re-use project will look at the barriers and opportunities to use hot-rolled steel without recycling - recycling may sound worthy but it is hugely energy intensive compared with reuse. Leading that team is Julian Allwood whose book Sustainable materials with both eyes open is freely available online.

16 years ago when I built our kitchen I used a 40mm slab of maple, bought by the metre, to make a worktop, finished with three coats of Danish Oil.  It slowly scruffies out, so every three or four years on a dry day in the summer we take it outside, scrape it back to the bare wood, reoil it and bring it back to life.

At the rate of wear it should last well over a hundred years, and being loose fixed it can be passed to my grandchildren as a thing of beauty.

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