I’m fascinated by the ability of design to solve problems. At its core, the circular economy is a revolution in both intention and design. It’s s an industrial system that is restorative or regenerative and it aims to ‘design out’ waste. Waste simply does not exist—products are engineered and optimized for an extended initial lifespan before entering the cycle of disassembly and reuse. I was fortunate to get to talk about just this at a recent virtual panel put on by GreenBiz at their Circularity 20 Conference. I was joined by representatives from the apparel and DIY industries to explore the sustainability impact of product design that emphasizes repairability and resilience.Unfortunately, designing for extended life and repairability has not always been at the forefront of product concepting, for several reasons. It’s often more expensive and can take more time upfront in the design process. It’s also not compatible with a business model of planned obsolescence — which has contributed heavily to today’s throwaway culture that prefers replacing over repairing. However, designing for product durability and an ability to be easily repaired is a key component of the circular economy because it keeps a product out of any potential waste loop for as long as possible.“The design mind needs to focus not on generating difference and change seasonally but rather generating the opportunity for the redeployment of a first-generation object to new second-generation material.” — Paul Dillinger, VP, Head of Global Product Innovation, Levi Strauss & Co.In addition to the physical structure of a product, however, designing for circularity also includes specifying the right materials. Using recycled or repurposed materials – preferably sourced from a closed loop — is one tactic. But if those resources are made from a composite mix, it creates issues at the end of the new product’s life cycle, because mixed materials can be very difficult to separate for reuse. To be truly sustainable, materials need to be easy to break down for proper repurposing. Again, this can add expense during the initial product’s creation. In some cases, it can also limit consumer choices; for example, the fibers of denim jeans that include spandex for stretch cannot be teased apart.Right now, not very many virgin materials are even getting that chance for a second use. According to McKinsey, six out of every 10 garments purchased are incinerated or buried within the first year after production. When it comes to e-waste, the statistics are equally disheartening. Even though it’s one of the fastest-growing waste streams in the world, less than 20 percent of electronics are responsibly recycled today.“Dell’s designers are the only designers who go to the recyclers every year and take apart their own products.” — Kyle Wiens, CEO, iFixitAt Dell Technologies, we are leading the way in reducing and recycling e-waste. One of our key principles regarding the circular economy is Transformation – changing the way we design and deliver products and services to align with responsible sustainability. Our design standard is simple: no computer should go to waste. This commitment begins with a systems-level view of all of our product lifecycles. Our designs emphasize ease of repair and recyclability from the start — with very successful results. In fact, the Dell Technologies Inspiron laptop received the top score of 10 from iFixit for the way its design supports easy repair and upgrades. Other exciting initiatives we’re working on involve the use of AI and ML to design products with self-healing technologies that can actually reconstitute and repair themselves to avoid downtime.“It is critically important to incorporate circular principles in the design phase. We are always seeking ways to make our products easier to repair and disassemble — and that starts with design.” — John Pflueger, Principal Environmental Strategist, Dell TechnologiesDell also offers PC as a Service (PCaas) by combining hardware, software and lifecycle session in exchange for monthly fees. Consumers who subscribe receive the latest technology every 36 months yet support sustainability. The program’s easy takeback allows us to easily refurbish entire PCs for resale or dissemble them to reclaim components for upcycling or recycling — a process made easier with thoughtful design.That thoughtful design includes looking for ways to make it easy for the materials we use to be recycled. For example, we will take the plastics recovered through our takeback programs and if they cannot be repurposed, we work with our partners to shred, melt and reblend them. We then use this recycled plastic at a 35 percent blend rate to make new parts. Currently, these “closed-loop” plastics feed parts into more than 125 different Dell products.More companies are beginning to adopt circular design initiatives as consumer opinions change with regards to what sacrifices they are willing to make for the sake of environmental responsibility, such as a higher price or a particular style. Also — and this is the key because the bottom line is always a driver — it’s becoming easier and more affordable to support the circular economy as technology improves.That technology improvement includes advances in AI and ML. Some exciting initiatives we’re working on involve the use of AI and ML to design products with self-healing technologies that can actually reconstitute and repair themselves to avoid downtime. And there will come a day, sooner than you might think, where AI will be able to manage a computing “subscription” and identify exactly what you need, based on how you use it. There are many roads to circularity, and at Dell Technologies, we’re exploring as many as possible to achieve our goal of a more sustainable future.
Sign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York The havoc wreaked on Long Island roadways this winter has forced officials to accelerate the timeline for state road repairs initially slated to begin next year and beyond.New York State officials announced Friday that $100 million—68-percent from the federal government and 32-percent provided by the state—has been made available for a dozen construction projects across Nassau and Suffolk counties. The projects are expected to begin this fall, though officials did not specify which roads would get priority status.“This particular winter was so brutal that to wait two, three years for these projects would have had a severe impact on it,” said New York State Department of Transportation spokeswoman Eileen Peters.Repairs will depend on the type of damage done to specific roadways, officials said. Resurfacing projects will range from removing the worn top layer of pavement from all travel lanes and shoulders and repairing base concrete, to improving drainage and installing new asphalt.“We identified the most heavily damaged roads, and used every available resource to accelerate these resurfacing projects,” NYSDOT Commissioner Joan McDonald said in a statement. “Throughout construction, we will be ensuring that traffic disruptions are minimized.”Crews will work either overnight hours or during off-peak times (late morning-late afternoon) to mitigate traffic, Peters said.She said some of the projects were originally scheduled for late-2015 and 2017. But the onslaught of snowy and icy weather created dangerous conditions on roads as drivers either attempted to avoid crater-sized potholes, or suffered flat tires and damaged wheels when potholes were unavoidable.From Jan. 1 to April 30, state crews used 2,599 tons of asphalt to fill potholes—up from 1,574 tons in 2013, and 523 tons in 2012.Up-to-date cost of repairs wasn’t immediately available. The Press reported in March that repairs cost $1,397,193 this year, quadruple last year’s price tag.List of Construction Projects:Nassau CountyLong Island Expressway (LIE/I-495) eastbound and westbound mainline between exits 37 and 46 in the towns of North Hempstead and Oyster BayNorthern State Parkway (NSP) between the Wantagh State Parkway (WSP) and the LIE, in the Town of HempsteadMeadowbrook State Parkway (MSP) between Glenn Curtis Boulevard and the NSP in the Town of HempsteadNY Route 25/Jericho Turnpike between NY Routes 106/107 and Robbins Lane, Town of Oyster BayNY Route 25/Jericho Turnpike between Brush Hollow Road and Jericho Quadrangle East in the Town of Oyster BayNY Route 878/Nassau Expressway between Burnside Avenue and Rockaway Turnpike in the Town of HempsteadNY Route 24/Hempstead Turnpike between the MSP and NY Route 110 in the towns of Hempstead and Oyster Bay, Nassau and Suffolk countiesSuffolk CountyNY Route 25A between the Nassau/Suffolk border and Bread and Cheese Hollow Road in the Town of HuntingtonNY Route 24/Flanders Road between County Roads 104/63 and Bellows Pond Road in the Town of SouthamptonNY Route 25A between NY Route 111 and Edgewood Avenue in the Town of SmithtownNY Route 25 between Kings Park Road and NY Route 111 in the Town of SmithtownSimeon Woods Road between the LIE and Kings Highway in the Town of Smithtown