by Marco Capellini
At the Milan Design Week 2022 that has just ended, we have seen a change of step by companies and designers towards the search for design solutions that look towards sustainability and the circular economy. A situation clearly dictated by two aspects, the first of which concerns the evolution of the regulatory framework and in particular the European one which, after having launched the Circular Economy Action Plan and the Green Deal in 2020, with the Sustainable Products Initiative on 30 March last, is definitely accelerating in establishing the environmental requirements that must be an integral part of products. We are waiting for the implementing decrees where the Commission has already clearly stated that the furniture sector is one of the priorities. The second aspect, and this is also what we saw in Milan, converges in the desire of an increasing number of companies in the furniture sector to develop circular products with reduced environmental impact. This is a path that has been set in motion but which requires time, as investments are needed and the increase in material prices we are seeing at the moment does not help companies. There is a transition phase underway where research is looking very carefully at new materials, new product systems, but also at new technologies capable of transforming end-of-life products into new resources for re-use.
A recent analysis we carried out as Matrec on the evolution over the last 10 years of the circularity and sustainability aspects of the furniture system shows that Circular Made in Italy has not only started its engines but has also begun to take off: Milan Design Week was an opportunity to see some proposals and solutions for living that increasingly look towards sustainability. Recycled, organic materials from certified renewable sources are some of the solutions pursued in the design of new products in addition to aspects of disassemblability, reparability, recyclability and environmental impact. All furniture companies have realised that the issue of sustainability will be a ‘compulsory pass’ to sell products on the market in the next few years and therefore there is attention to the subject. These are elements that also emerge very clearly from the ‘Design Economy‘ report recently published by the Symbola Foundation.
Over the past two years, we have measured the circularity of over 150 different products in the furniture sector through the CircularTool, a tool we developed as Matrec, had it validated by Bureau Veritas and made available to our clients to support design offices in measuring circularity during product development. This has allowed us to evaluate a series of data and arrive at an initial benchmark for the sector: the improvement in terms of circularity obtained is evident, and the credit must be given to the companies and designers who have made design choices that look carefully at a model of sustainability. Milan Design Week 2022 was also an opportunity for Matrec to assess the feedback from visitors regarding design and material solutions applied to products conceived in a circular perspective and presented by our client companies. We were involved in meetings and debates on different aspects of Ecodesign that confirmed the sector’s desire to move towards Circular Made in Italy.