German producer Covestro designs a circular economy

German producer Covestro designs a circular economy

Covestro presents its solutions at Design Shanghai 2024 with a focus on circular design.

In a linear economy, products, especially plastic products, are not sustainably manufactured, used, disposed of, or recycled, which leads to climate change, resource waste, and pollution. To tackle these challenges, design is a crucial but often overlooked solution.

Design plays a key role in enabling circularity and presents a huge opportunity for providers of high-performance materials, although it seems less associated with the chemical industry or the circular economy, according to experts at Covestro, a leading producer of premium polymer materials based in Leverkusen, Germany.

“The design phase determines a large part of a product’s environmental impact: from the choice of materials to repairability, from a long and useful product life to recyclability. We therefore can’t understate the topic of design when we want to become fully circular,” explained Christopher Stillings, head of Color & Design at the Engineering Plastics business unit of Covestro.

The chemical company has committed to becoming fully circular, with ambitious climate targets to achieve climate neutrality by 2050.

“As materials experts early in the value chain, we at Covestro sit in the sweet spot to consult our customers and partners on how to use circular design principles when conceiving a product. We want to systematically collaborate with designers to make use of that,” Stillings said.

Worldwide regulatory changes are also driving a shift towards circular product designs. For example, the EU is tightening its requirements for environmentally friendly product designs and has approved new rules to make products more reusable, repairable, upgradeable, and recyclable. A new proposal by the German Institute for Standardization for a “Method to achieve circular design of products” is on its way. The Department of Energy of the United States is also pursuing its “Strategy for Plastics Innovation,” which includes the factor of “Recyclability by design.”

To ride on that momentum, Covestro offers knowledge and solutions on various aspects of circular design. For example, the company’s new digital sampling tool, Imagio CQ, allows users to swiftly capture essential visual characteristics like color, gloss, opacity, and texture of a certain material formula through 3D renderings of product designs. This contributes to dematerialization, a main area of circular design.

Additionally, design for longevity is also a core strength for Covestro, which provides high-performance polymers for cars, buildings, and the cold chain, among others, that have a lifetime of several decades.

German producer Covestro designs a circular economy

The star of the Covestro booth during the Design Shanghai fair is a translucent 3D-printed jellyfish-shaped lamp made of polycarbonate plastic produced from recycled water barrels, without any added color.

During Design Shanghai in June, Covestro demonstrated these strengths by showcasing its latest solutions, ranging from materials and design know-how to digital tools, in order to support designers in achieving circularity.

It also hosted over a dozen workshops with partners such as RAL Colours, Chris Lefteri Design and Tongji University.

Translucent leisure chairs and a 3D-printed jellyfish-shaped lamp made of recycled polycarbonate plastics were among the exhibit highlights at its booth.

These exhibits showcased how the company, through its CMF (color, material, finish) expertise, aims to integrate aesthetic design into the development of sustainable materials in everyday life. The inherent beauty of such recycled polycarbonate, produced from recycled water barrels without any added color, was prominently featured.

“At Covestro, we are adept at connecting circularity and aesthetics through our expertise in sustainable materials and design, and our commitment to achieving full circularity,” said Emily Shi, global business development manager of Color & Design at Covestro’s Engineering Plastics segment, who is also the company’s project manager for Design Shanghai.

She also noted there has been positive engagement with designers and partners at the Shanghai event as well as the growing importance of circular design in creating a sustainable future.

German producer Covestro designs a circular economy

Hospitality industry supplier Tonney unveils its new hairdryer that incorporates more sustainable plastics and coatings raw materials, along with color, material, and finish expertise from Covestro.


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