C11. Awareness of sustainability issues and their wider impact

Posted: January 27, 2011 in CORE

Initial knowledge 1

Current working knowledge 3

Sustainability issues can affect environmental, social and economic aspects of the world.  They can affect individuals, groups and communities and businesses and organisations.  Sustainability issues can influence energy and water consumption as well as  everyday things like transport or simply our own health and well-being.  The way we consume fuel and recycle our goods can change pollution levels and waste and have a broader impact on things such as climate change and is a key initiative for other countries as well as our own government with advertising campaigns such as a recent one telling us to think about our carbon footprint.  On a broader scale this leads us to looking at things such as globalisation, consumerism and ethical trade.The truth is many activities, problems and solutions in the issues of sustainability are integrated.

In my first 2 projects I have had a look at the materials I chose to use for the projects and what happens to them when they are finally finished with, I used acrylic in each project so I had to take a closer look at the sustainability and recyclable issues with this plastic.  In each of the projects I featured a small piece of information on the wider impacts of producing and recycling acrylic this is extracted from my ambience light project.

”  The manufacturing process of acrylic involves many toxic chemicals and requires a lot of energy and so it does have a significant impact on the environment. If it is not recycled acrylic is non biodegradable and so will not break up well over time. The highly toxic substances used when manufacturing acrylic require careful storage, handling and disposal. The polymerization process can even result in an explosion if it is not monitored properly and it also produces toxic fumes. Recent legislation states that the polymerization process be carried out in a closed environment and that the fumes be cleaned, captured or otherwise neutralised before being released into the atmosphere.

As acrylic is a group 7 plastic amongst other recyclable plastics it is not collected for recycling in most communities. Large pieces can be reformed into a number of useful objects if they have not suffered too much stress, crazing or cracking but this actually accounts for only a small portion of the acrylic plastic waste.
Acrylic can be depolymerised by heating it to around 400 degrees Celsius, it then decomposes back to its original monomer , Methyl Methacrylate which can then be used to make more acrylic sheet amongst other things.
As I will not be tampering too much with the acrylic sheet I will be using other than re-shaping it, I would hope that in the future it could be melted to make more acrylic sheeting for other peoples future products, currently the majority of the acrylic recycled is formed into bottles or plastic lumber but after doing a little bit of research on the web I found some really interesting alternative uses further displaying its versatility and the benefit of recycling it.

recycled acrylic jewellery
recycled acrylic display cases
even recycled acrylic furniture

The average annual increase in the rate of consumption of acrylic plastics has been about 10%. A future annual growth rate of about 5% is predicted. Despite the fact that acrylic plastics are one of the oldest plastic materials in use today, it still holds the same advantages of optical clarity as a substitute for glass and has a good resistance to outdoor environments as well as in-door applications such as my light, due to its good machine-ability. I remain confident that acrylic will continue to be many peoples choice of plastic so secure, responsible recycling is paramount to ensure that people, not least myself and my classmates continue to benefit from it in the future. ”

Likewise in ED216:

However reflecting on this I have looked at the wider impact of using these materials after I have already decided to include them in my designs.  In order to demonstrate a true awareness, I should have looked at these factors at an earlier date and then I could have looked at whether ecologically these were the most suitable materials or whether there was a more environmentally friendly solution.  This is certainly something I will have a closer look at in ED320 as the project set is aimed at having an impact on the world as a whole.  I did not just look at sustainable materials for ED320, there are many factors that can be considered when actually designing for a sustainable future.  I included these quotes and research in my latest project and it was interesting to read not only about materials but sustainable design principals too.



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