Sustainability, green jobs, resilient growth: words that will increasingly fill our airwaves as the UK prepares for the UN Climate Change Conference this autumn. How can Wales, ranked third in the world for recycling, contribute to ‘net zero’ carbon by 2050, in line with Glasgow’s COP26 event? A new Cardiff-based centre, RemakerSpace, bridges the gap between industry and education – two sectors at the heart of solving this global challenge. Dedicated to supporting the circular economy, the not-for-profit will drive remanufacture, repair, re-use and redesign. Professor Aris Syntetos and Dr Daniel Eyers explain the making of RemakerSpace.
‘We live in a throw-away society. For generations, the world has been making, using and dumping products. In a crowded world, dropping waste into landfill, incinerating it or shipping it for ‘processing’ at overseas plants is unsustainable – especially if the UK is to achieve ‘net zero’ by 2050, and help to reduce global biodiversity loss by 2030.
Keeping a lid on a global 1.5°C temperature rise will take more than a switch to renewables, green energy and recycling. Whilst they are part of the solution, changing economic models and mentalities is arguably more important.
The idea of the ‘circular’ economy – where products are re-used, repaired and remanufactured – underpins RemakerSpace. Environmentally, remanufacturing allows us to reinvigorate used products and reinstate their working lives, contributing positively to the economy and creating green jobs. But we can only do so if we win hearts and minds.
RemakerSpace’s mission is all about changing attitudes. First, to raise awareness of reuse, repair, and remanufacturing to encourage uptake across society. Second, to highlight the benefits remanufacture and repair brings to businesses, where return on investment on remanufacturing is up to five times higher than new production. And third, to encourage the design of products with repair and after-life considerations in mind, where organisations adopt new technologies such as Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing) and innovative solutions for waste processing.
RemakerSpace has been created by Cardiff University’s PARC Institute of Manufacturing, Logistics and Inventory and operates with support from DSV.
It will support product life cycle extension and an end to planned obsolescence. Above all, the centre aims to fundamental change attitudes to the way we design, consume, and dispose of products through hands-on practical workshops and training aimed at industry, schools, students and the wider public.
RemakerSpace is an active advocate of, and participant in, the pursuit of UN sustainability goals, and a supporter of the Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.
Our ambition is bold. We aim to help Wales become a world leader on the circular economy. And as we remake more items, we aim to help and educate communities to do the small things that add up to making a big difference – and help businesses make money from their waste.
Containing equipment exclusively funded by Welsh Government, RemakerSpace will sit inside Cardiff’s beautiful new sbarc | spark building on Cardiff Innovation Campus. Positioned as the University’s ‘Home of Innovation,’ sbarc is where researchers, entrepreneurs and investors will create new products, processes and ways of working.
In addition to offering expertise for businesses in operationalizing remanufacturing strategies, we will enable individuals to repair small electrical items, furniture (especially wood), jewellery, clothing, and general household goods, preventing waste generation.
By guiding businesses, we will help them develop easily remanufacturable goods, preventing future waste generation whilst achieving competitive advantage through supply chain optimization.
Backed by full-time professional staff, RemakerSpace will be a global ‘first’ – a three-way partnership between academia, industry and government with a shared common goal to support the circular economy through product life cycle extension, obsolescence management and sustainable behaviour adaptation.
It will allow experts to build a corpus of knowledge around the circular economy, enable industry to devise and trial better and less damaging products, and act as a reference for education and awareness around repair, remanufacturing and redesigning.
In addition, it will build on Wales’s outstanding track record as a recycling nation. Data from the Wales Recycles charity WRAP shows that 92% of us now regularly recycle at home, with 55% of us recycling more than we were a year ago, and almost two-thirds (63%) of families recycling more over the same period.
Our aim as a Wales-first not-for-profit is to drive the world’s transition to dematerialised supply chains. In effect, we aim to square the circular economy.”