Guide

Ecodesign in product and service development

How to choose raw materials for ecodesign

Your selection of raw materials has a significant impact on the sustainability of your goods and services.

Choosing raw materials for your product

When choosing materials for ecodesign, you need to consider:

  • the level of virgin and recycled content of the materials
  • their carbon and ecological footprints
  • what the most sustainable mix might be

You also need to consider whether the materials can be extracted and reused or remanufactured when they have finished being used. There may be a market for the materials and legislation governing their disposal and use.

If the materials can be recycled, assess what recycling facilities are available, and if the material can be clearly marked to help people recycle it.

Advantages of choosing sustainable product materials

If you choose the best materials and match the material with the job, you should see a number of benefits, such as less waste and increased efficiency during manufacturing and use.

Using fewer materials overall can reduce your business' environmental impact as well as lower costs. It can make products and packaging lighter and simpler, reducing waste and the cost and impact of distribution. Using fewer materials can also make it easier to recycle your products.

You can also use your choice of materials to innovate and differentiate your product or service from others in the marketplace. See how to use recycled materials and products.

Choosing substitutes materials for ecodesign

Some of the most important decisions you make when selecting raw materials relate to the manufacturing costs and performance of your products. It's often the priority to simply find the materials that are best suited to those criteria. However, that material may not necessarily be the most sustainable. You may want to consider:

  • Is it possible to substitute materials for more sustainable alternatives - eg if some materials in your product cannot be recycled, can you replace them with alternatives that can be?
  • The environmental impact of transporting the materials you use in the product or its packaging - eg can you substitute materials for those which result in lower carbon emissions?
  • If any downsides to the substitute are outweighed by the potential benefits that can be gained - eg from promoting how sustainable your goods or services are.

Reusing other business' waste

If your business has no use for a by-product or waste that you create, another organisation may be able to use it as a raw material. Your business may also be able to use another organisation's waste. You may be able to cut costs and generate income from buying or selling waste materials.

Invest Northern Ireland can provide advice and support to help you manage business energy and waste.