Refocus, Redesign, Repair. The Ecological 3Rs become 6

Designing solutions for a less wasteful life written in August 2014 is a great article by Catherine Bolgar, quoting Dave Hakkan from a design perspective and Jean-Pierre Haber at the EU from a Governance perspective. However, that there are few articles written is interesting in that perhaps it confirms how little design is front and centre of the waste conundrum.

The strap-line of “reduce, reuse and recycle” somewhat misses the point. Reduce, reuse, recycle these days, is synonymous with the packaging industry and land fill rather than the obsolescence cycles of the everyday technology, equipment and machinery we all utilise personally, or in our households or businesses (that is not to ignore many of the charitable organisations that ensure the passing fashions and trends in the 1st world that discard perfectly functioning devices can be reused in the developing world).

All of this suggests that there should be a refocus further back in the timeline of the product design and manufacturing process to encourage less need to reduce, reuse or recycle.

Governments also need to refocus on appropriate policies and motivators for Corporations to maintain shareholder value and refocus on practices that encourage a slower decline of products into end of life disposal. Appropriate KPIs and empirical reporting frameworks should be employed by Government agencies to build the supporting arguments for less waste from better design.

In effect and as summarised by Catherine Bolgar in her 2014 article, we must redesign principles of product design to promote longevity via upgrade and repair.

Finally, travelling through emerging economies in South East Asia there is a different approach to product longevity on display. In Thailand, for example, every City, Town and Village has local resources to repair equipment and machinery, electronic or mechanical. Tractors, Excavators, cars, mopeds, bicycles, TVs, laptops, phones etc are all given extended lives. It is an accepted norm to repair.

With refocused Governments and Corporations and rethought design principles we can encourage and grow a repair industry and tilt Economic activity from produce-consume-destroy to consume-upgrade-resume.

In short, perhaps there are 3Rs that should precede: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle are:


Refocus: Governments should switch their focus to solving the problem (focus and design) and not the symptoms (waste). Corporations should be encouraged to generate shareholder value by more than just selling a higher volume of units and shortening obsolescence cycles.

Redesign: Design that encourages longevity of all mechanical and electronic equipment and encourages simple repair and upgrade.

Repair: From refocus and redesign we can nurture and evolve a growing industry for repairs.


Solve these 3Rs and you truly will begin to solve the downstream problems we have created in our consumption driven, disposable society.