Reduce, reuse and recycle is the mantra that has affectively engrained important environmental values in the public. These values are now part of our collective consciousness thanks to the hunters, environmentalists, farmers and conservationists who took on the responsibility of educating the public. Unfortunately, when it comes to developing consumer products, all of these ideas are generally used and implemented as an after thought. True, many products are now designed to ease their recycling and reduce materials, but very few are designed for reuse. Generally, reuse falls under the category of unintended consequences and that’s a shame. The truth is that every single product should be designed with reuse in mind. This isn’t just a good use of materials or engineering skills, it has the potential to the basis of a huge marketing program and to be a huge drive of revenues. I did not create the concept of reusing products but I am bringing this concept to the forefront by calling it “Secondary use engineering and marketing” and by pointing out that it can be a profitable way of improving our products.
One of the greatest examples of SUEM that already exists is the Heineken WOBO bottle. Developed in the 60’s by N. John Harbraken, who was hired by Alfred Heineken, the WOBO was designed to handle two problems. The first was the litter caused by people throwing away Heineken bottles on the ground, and the second was a lack of building materials.
The problems of pollution, garbage management and scarcity of building materials seem to have grown in the past 50 years since the WOBO was invented. A more modern version of reusing what is traditionally considered waste is happening all across the world using plastic bottles. A group named ECO-TEC currently helps train people on how to use plastic bottles and other materials to build low cost housing. Another company, Miniwiz, is really what got me started thinking about this problem. Miniwiz received some notoriety a few years ago after having their Polli-Brick used to build the ecoARC pavilion. Polli-Brick is a plastic bottle made from recycled plastic bottles that is used for construction. Where they went wrong is that AFAIK they never marketed it as a way for another company to grow it’s sales.
The problem is that Polli-Brick has only one function, something that SUEM addresses. Polli-Brick is made from recycled bottles but it really should have been developed as a container for a product, like a soft drink. After the soft drink is consumed the bottle could then be used as a building block, thus adding a whole level of functionality that consumers would pay for.
The Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo, Ajegroup, AmBev and Hamoud Boualem – let me lay how SUEM can make you money. You could design your bottles to be stackable, in the same way as the WOBO and Polli-Brick. Sell these bottles in any location where people need affordable building materials. Others have already shown that there is a secondary market for plastic bottles as it is. Stack-able bottles mean that you can pack more into a given space for shipment, round bottles present packing issues and are an inefficient use of shipping space. You can market the bottles new feature and people will buy solely on the fact that it helps their direct needs, housing. Although I am sharing this information, it is not free. I do not have the resources to present such a plan to you in person so I am posting it in hopes that it reaches the right people one day. If that day comes, and if you use my proposal, I expect you to be professional and compensate me properly.
One of the drawbacks of SUEM design is that it is less efficient in developed nations. People view items that have been used once as garbage, which may carry a social stigma without good marketing to promote consumer understanding. It is harder to design a SUEM product that fits a need that isn’t already met in the marketplace in a developed nation. In developing nations, however, their needs are so great that it is easy to find secondary uses. Their waste management is generally less developed and waste production is increasing, leading to a greater need of SUEM products.
At this point you may be wondering, what does this have to do with 3D printing? I think that 3D printing might help bridge some of the gap between current products and SUEM products. A Gentleman in Africa built a 3D printer using mostly E-Waste that was available to him. As 3D printers become more prevalent in developing nations, and people design ways to reuse the materials around them, we could teach a whole world of people how to be self sufficient using nothing but their hard work and creativity.