Extracting and refining the materials used in the economy is an energy-intensive process that requires the use of fossil fuels and thus generates carbon emissions. The Centre for Industrial Energy, Materials and Products (CIE-MAP) was created to generate knowledge concerning how to reduce the consumption of materials as a means to address the climate change caused by excessive carbon emissions.
In a collaboration with Leeds University, Bath University and Cardiff University, Nottingham Trent University received around £1.25m of a £6.2m RCUK grant for CIE-MAP, one of six research centres funded to address ‘end use energy demand’. Our expertise in design, sustainable consumption and behavioural analysis complemented the scientific expertise of our partners.
Addressing the Challenge
CIE-MAP has identified and explored various changes in public policy, business practices and consumer behaviour that have the potential to reduce the nation's consumption of materials.
There has been a growth in interest in product lifetimes as a way to address excessive materials consumption, as proposed in the EU Circular Economy Action Plan and the UK Resources and Waste Strategy. Nottingham Trent University’s research team focussed on this theme, addressing a range of topics across different industry sectors and from the perspective of different stakeholders, as demonstrated in the following examples.
A survey revealed consumers’ expectations of product lifetimes and their level of satisfaction. Another study considered how best to recover discarded electrical appliances, furniture and other consumer durables with the aim of increasing reuse was explored through qualitative research with a range of stakeholders. Opportunities to scale-up the market for upcycled products were identified using mixed methods research. An online data search followed by content analysis identified the extent to which current business models promote durable product design, enhanced repair and upgrade services, and product take-back. Finally, industry interviews were used to compare longer lasting cars and car sharing as alternative strategies for increasing resource efficiency.
Collectively these studies identified many opportunities to reduce material consumption, while also revealing some of the obstacles to change.
NTU’s multidisciplinary team was led by Professor Tim Cooper, a social scientist who has worked in the field of product longevity for over twenty years. He initiated the biennial PLATE (Product Lifetimes and the Environment) conferences and is editor of Longer Lasting Products (Routledge, 2010).
Alongside researchers at Leeds, Cardiff and Bath, NTU researchers collaborated with industry representatives, government departments such as Defra and BEIS (the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy), the Committee on Climate Change, WRAP (the Waste and Resources Action Programme) and the Green Alliance. The NTU team included Dr Jagdeep Singh, Dr Giuseppe Salvia, Dr Naomi Braithwaite, Dr Mariale Moreno, Dr Kyungeun Sung and Dr Alex Rodrigues.
Barrett, J., Cooper, T., Hammond, G.P. and Pidgeon, N. (2018) Industrial energy, materials and products: UK decarbonisation challenges and opportunities, Applied Thermal Engineering, 136, 643-656.
Cole, C., Gnanapragasam, A. and Cooper, T. (2018) Enhancing reuse and resource recovery of electrical and electronic equipment with reverse logistics to meet carbon reduction targets. Procedia CIRP 69, 980-985.
Gnanapragasam, A., Cole, C. and Cooper, T. (2018) Consumer perspectives on longevity and reliability: a national study of purchasing factors across eighteen product categories. Procedia CIRP 69, 910-915.
Garnett, K., Cooper, T., Longhurst, P., Jude, S. and Tyrrel, S. (2017) A conceptual framework for negotiating public involvement in municipal waste management decision-making in the UK, Waste Management 66, pp. 210-221.
Cole, C., Gnanapragasam, A. and Cooper, T. (2017) Towards a circular economy: exploring routes to reuse for discarded electrical and electronic equipment. Procedia CIRP, 61, pp. 155-160.
Singh, J. and Cooper, T. (2017) Towards a sustainable business model for plastic shopping bag management in Sweden. Procedia CIRP, 61, pp. 679-684.
Mestre, A. and Cooper, T. (2017) Circular Product Design. A Multiple Loops Life Cycle Design Approach for the Circular Economy, The Design Journal, 20:sup1, S1620-S1635.
Sung, K. and Cooper, T. (2015) Sarah Turner – Eco-artist and designer through craft-based upcycling. Craft Research, 6(1) 113-122.