Anders Breitholtz is the founder of Material Challenge Lab that finds, evaluates, develops and implements sustainable, innovative and advanced materials and production techniques for the manufacturing industry, to possibly make it more circular.
Q1. What is material design for you?
For me is the combination of science, engineering, economics, sustainability and design. A mixture of everything. So instead of creating a product or building you design the components, the pieces of Lego that in itself will make up or be combined into new or already existing artefacts in production. Production compatibility is key, and in a sense, one can say I have gone from being an industrial designer to a material “industrialisation designer” or a “designtist”.
Q2. How did the Material Challenge Lab come into existence?
Having taken part in hundreds of development projects, guys like me have unique experience in material innovation in the production process. As I, literally have seen, thousands upon thousands existing and new materials I wanted to create materials for the circular economy that can make an impact for real. Especially not just to make fancy materials that work in a lab environment but in an industrial context. Q3. How do you measure circularity in your projects?
That is a great question! Here in Sweden, some use a quite simple formula by dividing the amount of recycled material content compared to virgin. However, I think it’s a gross generalisation if it’s not combined with a more holistic approach including LCA, business models etc. Personally, I believe in finding system solutions that are implementable in a real societal and industrial reality. It is very complex and often unique to the products, the materials, the recycling industries etc.
Q4. If you could give one advice to young circular economy innovators, what would that be?
It’s a continuous learning process. It will never stop. Be curious and make sure to start structuring your learning process. Don’t just get stuck in endless meetings, instead go and visit the manufacturing industries or recycling plants and talk to people on the work floor. Ie combine theory and practice. Ask questions. Try to get a grip of volumes and resource flows. Because the circular economy is all about resource management and value creation towards a more robust and sustainable society. Finally, I can be a bit dramatic and say that we do not need more product designs, we need more circular materials and designs.
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