Project context

The Design from Recycling research project has been conducted as an interdisciplinary collaboration between the polymer engineers of CPMT (University of Ghent) and the industrial designers of Product Development (University of Antwerp), supported by LCA experts of Envoc (UGent) and subcontractor Centexbel-VKC. In addition, the project also found support and validation with an active and extensive user group, composed of design agencies, recyclers, plastic processors, OVAM and Catalisti. This research is financed by the VLAIO-TETRA project 150151: Design from Recycling.

Project aim

The aim of Design from Recycling is to provide Flemish SMEs with the necessary knowledge and support to design (and manufacture) more (and better) products from recycled plastics and to estimate the sustainability of these products.

Design from Recycling is not the same as the already well-known Design for Recycling, which focuses on a product’s recyclability during the design process. Instead, Design from Recycling investigates to what extent a new product can be manufactured from an existing flow of recycled plastics and which design specifications it entails.

Research output

This knowledge transfer to designers is realised by the Determinator Box that contains a design manual; a guide with tips & tricks and do’s & don’ts for designing with recycled plastics. The additional design experience booklets illustrate two cases in which this is demonstrated. Finally, the material identity cards contain the technical data sheets and user-centred evaluations of the fifteen recycled/virgin materials’ determinators.


Extensive research is available concerning materials from a technical engineering perspective, which results in objective, numerical data and useful process parameters for manufacturing, through a series of normalised material tests. However, more and more attention is paid to the way consumers experience and perceive these materials (the user-centred perspective).

Therefore, the Design from Recycling project does not only start from a technical characterisation of a recycled material stream, but it also wants to explore and emphasize the unique identity in order to differentiate a new material on the market, instead of replacing or imitating traditional materials in existing products. 

Material Driven Design methodology

To support industrial design engineers in designing with recycled plastics, this research project builds upon the Material Driven Design (MDD) method, where a (new) material is the starting point of the design process, analogous to Design from Recycling. This approach aims to structure the design process and bridge both technical and experiential perspectives during different activities.

The design manual is the translation and follows the Material Driven Design process in six major steps, as shown below.

  1. First of all, the material flow is technically characterised in the lab;
  2. And the unique sensorial and experiential aspects of the material are evaluated by designers.
  3. The interpretation of both steps leads to a material experience vision (or marketing slogan) for the material;
  4. To facilitate the idea generation.
  5. Finally, appropriate ideas can be further elaborated according to the design guidelines for recyclates.

This manual will walk you through these steps and illustrate them with examples from several material cases.

Project partners

In addition to the research team, the project also found support and validation with an active and extensive user group, composed of design agencies, recyclers, plastic processors, OVAM and Catalisti.

  • EnVOC
  • Recticel
  • Samsonite
  • Quadrant
  • Eco-oh!
  • Suez
  • Vanheede
  • Galloo Plastics
  • Deceuninck
  • Govaerts recycling
  • Beaulieu
  • Cabka IPS
  • VDS-Technics
  • Fosfor
  • Pilipili
  • Voxdale