Design Circular: Waste Reconsidered


In the context of the circularity and nature-based solutions DUT pathway, and working with local and European partners, SUSDESIGN´s project

The Design Circular: Waste Reconsidered (DeCiWaRe) project  aims to explore the potentials of urban waste by channeling said waste streams (both organic and non organic) into raw material for added-value mass customizable urban furniture through the utilization of digital manufacturing technologies. The project is in line with the Designing Urban Transitions (DUT) Partnership Program's "nature-based solutions pathway" and has been selected for further concept development by the DUT Urban Doers Grant.


The project aims to functionally and aesthetically design local public spaces into healthier human habitats, embracing social participation and creating nature-based circular design solutions in the urban context by transforming the local waste into (circular) innovative urban furniture. 


Circular Design plays a fundamental role in the project as facilitator of innovation (both in product-service-system oriented solutions, and as a socio-technological facilitation process). In this context, generative modularity is taken as a fundamental design principle, and the project democratizes the design process by encouraging local community engagement in the process to address their local needs.


As opposed to conventional recycling that involves intensive labor and long-distance transportation (often times between countries) of waste, recent developments in digital manufacturing technologies have opened up opportunities to tap into these waste flows (e.g., paper, plastics, glass, food) and to locally transform them into new (circular) products that benefit local communities. Localization of manufacturing considerably shortens supply chains, and has the potential to reduce emissions, energy use, and the overall carbon footprint of the city.


The DeCiWaRe project contributes to urban transitions by scaling up its model, network, and pilot experiments, which can be replicated in other urban contexts under a circular European distributed economy concept that will help build economic resilience.


 The project comprises three partners that bring together different knowledge and experiences: 


Lisbon-based SUSDESIGN (PT) maintains expertise in sustainable design research, designing for the circular economy, and utilizing sustainable natural based materials to design furniture and interiors. Over the course of the past years, we have worked with cork, bio-composite panels (utilizing waste streams from the Portuguese forestry industry), biocomposites of recycled paper and bio resins, mycelium, kelp/seaweed, and reclaimed wood. SUSDESIGN also developed a Circular Product Design methodology (tested in multiple countries) comprising strategy, criteria, and tools to apply in professional design contexts.


Project partner Istanbul-based FABB (TR) specializes in experimental digital fabrication technologies with industrial 6-axis robotic arms in the architectural scale for the creative industries. In addition to expertise in digital fabrication technologies in architecture, FABB has previously initiated an international online platform for sharing digital fabrication methodologies with industrial robots. 


Project partner TUDelft’s Technology, Policy & Management Faculty (NL) is a research-based academic department managing the Delft Circularity Lab, an open, bottom-up initiative aiming to form an essential node in building a multi-stakeholder movement to foster, teach and utilize usable knowledge from circularity research excellence into practice. The knowledge, experiences and pilot initiatives of the partners during the project will be synthesized into a case study, and ultimately a model that can be replicated in other European regions. This, in turn, could inspire further exploration of digital fabrication in different regions, as well as new materials development that make use of local waste streams (domestic or industrial) and draw attention to secondary raw materials, while promoting their use on a European scale. 


An open-source platform to share design solutions for the circular urban furniture and their digital fabrication know-how across future partner locales will be established, incorporating organization of waste management and local material reclamation.


Urban waste streams can have a considerable impact on the environmental and economic performance of cities and on the quality of life of populations. The DeCiWaRe project aims to develop a circular design innovation project to interconnect both the project partners’ different capacities and knowledge on circularity, while scaling up our initiative to a level spanning different European urban realities (from West - Lisbon to East - Istanbul, and Central Europe - Delft / Rotterdam).


The knowledge we aim to build up with respect to urban research and innovation includes developing a model, network, and pilot implementation plan to enhance the eco-efficiency (economic and ecological) and social-equity distribution of valuable urban waste resources into innovative circular design projects (e.g. urban furniture). Our project’s innovation includes gaining and sharing practice-based knowledge and experience through the creation of a European network for the development and implementation of several local EU pilot circular urban waste projects, involving:


  • Identifying and assessing various local urban waste streams (collaborating with local waste management agencies and recycling facilities to gather data and establish partnerships to identify and evaluate the types and quantities of reclaimable and recyclable waste generated).
  • Developing an efficient and cost effective waste-to-furniture conversion strategy and process, utilizing generative design suitable for digital fabrication of sustainable urban furniture, and showcasing the potential of circular waste-based materials for functional and aesthetically appealing urban design (collaborating with local municipalities and urban planning departments).
  • Promoting community engagement and education on urban waste circularity, aiming to raise awareness about waste management, recycling, and circular design, to foster a sense of ownership and responsibility among the urban residents (through workshops, exhibitions, and public events to engage the local community in the project).
  • Building capacities and networks to connect the project research and innovation results to EU circular economy, design, and waste management policies.