A Chemicals Perspective on Designing with Sustainable Plastics

Goals, Considerations and Trade-offs

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The development of plastic products does not systematically take sustainability, particularly from a chemicals perspective, into account. This report seeks to enable the creation of inherently sustainable plastic products by integrating sustainable chemistry thinking in the design process. By applying a chemicals lens during the plastic material selection process, designers and engineers can make informed decisions to incorporate sustainable plastic during the conceptualisation phase of their products.

The report provides an integrated approach to sustainable plastic selection from a chemicals perspective, and identifies a set of generalisable sustainable design goals, life cycle considerations and trade-offs. At a more granular level, considerations are identified for each life-cycle phase, which are brought together as a whole-product assessment and optimisation taking the full life cycle into account. The report also considers trade-offs that will need to be carefully balanced in the design phase and reflection on implications of design choices. Ultimately, the report helps to equip designers and engineers with knowledge of relevant chemical considerations when selecting sustainable plastic, supporting better outcomes and a more transparent process.



This study builds upon the general considerations from the OECD report ‘Considerations and criteria of sustainable plastics from a chemicals perspective’ published in 2018. It also builds on sector specific considerations from four case studies on insulation, flooring, biscuit wrappers, and detergent bottles.


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