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LSBU product designers help stop refrigerators going to landfill

LSBU product design students and faculty are working with a refrigeration company to reduce the number of supermarket display cabinets being dumped in landfill.
12 December 2013

There are about 800,000 refrigerated display cabinets in the UK with a typical cabinet containing 850 kilogrammes of various materials—enough glass to glaze The Shard 36 times or the same weight in steel as 510 fully-loaded Airbus A380's.

Yet only 13 per cent of refrigerated display cabinets are re-engineered or re-manufactured, with the other 87 per cent stored, recycled or sent to landfill.

"Since the Industrial Revolution the design and manufacture of the majority of products has been based on a linear 'cradle to grave' model," explains Dr Deborah Andrews, course director for BSc Product Design.

"Consequently, billions of tonnes of materials are wasted as products, components and materials are discarded at the end of their life.

"A number of leading thinkers have proposed new approaches to design and manufacture based on 'circular' systems but until recently these ideas have either remained conceptual or been adopted by very few businesses."

Billions of tonnes of materials are wasted as products, components and materials are discarded at the end of their life.

Dr Deborah Andrews, Course Director - BSc Product Design

In 2012 the UK's Technology Strategy Board launched a programme to help businesses develop a 'circular economy' where products, components and materials are not discarded at the end of their life but become a 'closed loop' through reuse.

Along with making new cabinets, refrigeration company The Bond Group extends the life of existing units by re-manufacturing and re-engineering them to become better than new: swapping mild steel components for stainless steel and replacing non-recyclables like plastic insulation with sustainable and high-tech materials.

The Technology Strategy Board funded Dr Deborah Andrews (product design) and Dr Issa Chaer (building services engineering) to carry out a feasibility study to help Bond identify ways in which they can further develop good practice and move towards a circular economy for the refrigeration industry.

"In addition to the technical, economic, ethical and business feasibility studies the project output included a video that clearly communicates the need for change," says Dr Andrews.

"Creating the video was an excellent opportunity for our BSc Product Design students Andrew Hodgson and Dave Wildman to work on a live design project as part of their year-long work placement. Dave and Andrew are passionate about sustainable design and were really excited to be part of such an important project.

"On 28 November, Bond managing director Chris Woollett visited LSBU to see the fantastic three-minute animation—and he was so pleased with it that he has asked Dave and Andrew to make some more videos to promote the company's sustainable design, manufacture and the circular economy."

If you would like to discuss this and similar projects contact Howard Thomas, Business Development Manager.