Ecodesign for a circular economy – An interview with Bernd Mayer

From biodegradable materials to repair and recycling concepts

The European Commission has adopted an action plan for the circular economy in the form of its “Green Deal”. Products need to be sustainable, waste should be reduced, and resource consumption minimized. Together with its partners, Fraunhofer IFAM is committed to meeting these high standards.

How can companies ensure that their products are fit for a circular economy?

In addition to the usual application criteria, the life cycle of a product must be considered as early as the product development stage. This concerns both the selection of materials, for example, the use of biobased and biodegradable materials, and the option of repair as well as subsequent recycling. A customized product design is necessary to make selected areas accessible for possible disassembly.

What challenges does a circular economy pose for product manufacturing?

In addition to product design, the manufacturing processes of these products have a significant impact on resource efficiency. Energy consumption by the procedures, possible waste and by-products during manufacturing, required storage capacities and much more, all these aspects determine not only the economic efficiency but also the eco-efficiency of product manufacturing. The quantitative analysis of these multi-layered influencing factors is becoming increasingly important.

How can the institute support its corporate partners?

Fraunhofer IFAM is working with its partners on new materials and design concepts as well as new manufacturing processes. In terms of materials, the focus is on renewable raw materials and the use of materials from recycling processes. The associated processing methods are adapted to this material base and combined with specific quality assurance methods. All of this is supported by detailed eco-balancing analyses.