The transition to a sustainable economy is forcing us to rethink our habits of disposable products. Many items we use are single-use or only last a very short time. Of course, those products didn't just happen, they were designed for the established consumption economy which cannot longer be sustained. Unfortunately, we don't step away from them so easily.

The REuseLab supports companies in successful implementation of reusable products.

The REuseLab acts as an innovation hub or living lab that brings together all voices. It offers a knowledge base and a safe space to experiment and learn. REuseLab will simultaneously translate academic research into practical knowledge needed to leverage implementation of reuse as well as learn from new reuse implementations to extend the generalized knowledge basis. Positioning us as an impact lab, our aim is to make ourselves obsolete by reaching the ambition to make long product usage standard.


We define product reuse as: robust, long-living products that can be reused for the same purpose/ same function either by the same user or by different users in various circular business models. Including activities to maintain, clean, and repair to extend the usage phase in the product lifecycle. We recognize the importance of recycling but consider this only as a last solution to recover materials. Consequently, recycling will not be in the focus of REuseLab.

WHAT we do.

REuse Lab offers a methodical approach to manage the transition to reuse and longevity of products. This transition can only be successful on condition that;

  • a high-quality and safe alternative product exist, AND
  • users want to continue using the reusable product, AND
  • the right partnerships are created to close the re-use chain in a sustainable way, AND
  • the whole system is also commercially and economically viable.

REuse Lab assists companies in their quest for reuse and longevity. Our working method covers all four aspects; the product, the context of use, the chain and the financial consequences. We work in very diverse sectors and with a multidisciplinary academic team.

HOW we work.

Each project within the REuseLab aims to support understanding the full complexity of the transition for a specific context. To achieve this, standard framing methodology was detailed that is used through these projects, existing of a SCAN phase, DESIGN phase, and CHANGE phase. These phases can be combined in a project and executed consecutively, or focus can be put on a specific phase. Typically a SCAN is shorter than a CHANGE project.

  • SCAN to identify the current barriers and opportunities for reuse. A SCAN is methodologically characterized through a combination of desk research, interviews and observations that enable to understand the current context, the present mechanisms, the current used products, as well as the barriers and opportunities and the leverage points to introduce change.
  • DESIGN to envision how reuse could be manifested. A DESIGN is methodologically characterized through a combination of design (ideation, cocreation, visualization, prototyping) and research (verification, simulation, and other testing) tasks.
  • CHANGE to monitor the implementation of the reusable products. A CHANGE is methodologically characterized by the large experiment (or multiple experiments) that will be executed and the related research activities to set up the experiment, monitor the execution, to collect the data (through observations, interviews, direct data, or surveys), to learn from this data and to optimize the set up.


Reuse can only be successful if we collaborate

Multisector but also interdisciplinary working collaborations are essential in order to be able to have all partners on board for successful experimentation with reusable alternatives. REuseLab mainly focusses on ecosystem collaborations, in which REuseLab acts as a facilitator to bring together the different partners  (i.e. all partners needed in a reuse value chain, from production to servitization to reversed logistics and end of usage management) and/or as a knowledge broker to translate, apply, understand the specific situation and generate the optimal insights towards successful implementation of reuse.

REuseLab aims to work together with those sectors that have the highest single-use consumption. We deliberately work cross sectoral as interesting insights for example from the health care sector regarding safety and hygiene are transferable to a sector of food packaging, where hygiene and food safety is also critical. For the moment, we generate reuse knowledge in following sectors: Healthcare, (food)packaging, fashion and consumer products.


  • In healthcare there is a growing interest in the circular economy. Lots of ongoing research and innovation in the sector focusses on material recycling for obtaining circularity. Complementary, REuseLab investigates reuse on a product-level. The use of the reusable product requires behavioural changes of the users (medical staff), as well as the entire value chain. We aim to support the development of high-quality reusable product with associated services, including quality assurance, optimising ease of use, building confidence in reuse through a new business model.


  • REuseLab aims to initiate reuse in a sector where this has long been considered impossible. By conducting thorough research into alternative solutions, we explore how reusable products can comply with the high demands laboratories. The various insights into design, high-level cleanability and end-user acceptance can all lead to interesting translations and applications in other sectors.


  • Research showed that the average lifetime of a x times wearing.
  • Barriers to lifetime extension and reuse are related to the fast fashion attitude and the lack of quality perception and preservative behaviour.

Consumer products

  • If we want reusable products to have a positive environmental impact, we need to make sure people actually use them in a correct and sustainable manner, which automatically implies long-term usage and postponed replacement. REuseLab is gaining insights into the motivators and barriers for specifically long-term reuse is key to developing successful reusable products to eventually decrease waste and resource depletion, and creating truly sustainable behaviours and habits.

(Food) packaging

  • The packaging sector is one of the highest producers of single use  waste. Barriers to reuse are mainly linked to hygiene and food safety but also to comfort and ease of use.


The REuseLab works together with companies. More info: REuse Lab website


Horizon Europe: Lab plastics

Abstract: Each year about 5.5 million tonnes of plastic waste is created in research laboratories worldwide. This despite the fact that many researchers are working precisely here on tackling the waste problem in other sectors. A considerable part of this waste comes from the many single-use consumables in the lab, such as pipette tips, tubes or petri dishes. These are often chosen because of the strict requirements that exist for these products, but also because of the ease of disposal after use. 

The objective of this research, however, is to ultimately be able to replace as many single-use products as possible with reusable alternatives in the laboratory. In the context of this project, we want to focus on the chemical sector in the first place. At the moment, alternatives are often not available or do not meet the requirements. Therefore, in this research, various variables are defined and the obstacles to (re)use are analysed. The four most important variables are: context, usage, design and the collection system. These will all influence the eventual use, reuse or disposal behaviour. 

Through a number of cases, the theory will be continuously tested in practice. To achieve this, there is close cooperation throughout the research with various laboratories full of enthusiastic lab employees who are more than ready to contribute to this transformation.

Timing: 2019-2023

Funding: Horizon Europe – part of the Bordersens EU project

Designing long-term reuse

Abstract: Plastic pollution is a very urgent environmental problem that gets rising attention from governments, industries, and consumers. To prevent excessive waste and resource depletion, it is necessary that consumers make a shift from single-use towards reuse. However, good intentions do not always translate into actual sustainable behaviour. A reusable product has to be reused a certain number of times before it gets better for the environment than its single-use counterpart, due to a generally higher impact during the production of reusable products in comparison with single-use products. The minimal number of times a reusable product has to be reused to become more sustainable is what we call the breakeven point. This research analyses the enablers and barriers for the continued (long-term) usage of reusable alternatives for single-use products, with the aim to enable and motivate users to (at least) reach the breakeven point.

Status: PhD defended by Laure Herweyers

Funding: UAntwerpen - BOF

More info and downloads:


Abstract: Nature provides an almost inexhaustible source of inspiration for innovative designs that may help to tackle many of the world's current social, economic and environmental challenges. In accordance, the potential of bioinspiration (including biomimetics and biomimicry) has become widely recognized in academia and industry. The main hurdle preventing the field of bioinspiration from delivering its promises, however, stems from differences in tools, practices and viewpoints of its practitioners, often obstructing further development towards successful products. Nature4Nature, a unique joint effort of biologists, engineers, designers and manufacturers, will immerse young doctoral researchers (DCs) in a learning environment that fully spans the inspiration, integration and implementation aspects of bioinspired design to tackle the conceptual, methodological and practical challenges. It will provide DCs (a) with a mindset and know-how to harness biodiversity into design; (b) with the theoretical background and practical skills for transferring biological model systems into engineering designs and applications; and (c) with an attitude and competence to implement bioinspired ideas in an explicit sustainable way. Nature4Nature will focus its research activities onto one model system: how to efficiently separate solid particles from liquids. Biological filtration systems have evolved repeatedly over the earth's living history. Nature4Nature will teach DCs to make the most of this rich heritage, using it as an inspiratory source for designing and manufacturing high-throughput, clog-resisting filtering systems that can help conserving and restoring the world's aquatic habitats. By fostering a new generation of researchers operating at the interface between scientific disciplines, sectors and societal actors, Nature4Nature sets out to spur innovative practices and will aid in overcoming the barriers to implementation of bioinspiration in the design process.


Funding: Europe - MSCA-DN

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Abstract: While taking care of the population's health, hospitals generate mountains of waste. Which in turn have a negative impact on the living environment of this population. This waste originates from the excessive use of disposable products that are discarded, sometimes even without being used.

reCURE researches the development and implementation of product reuse in this sector to ensure the conservation of raw materials and eliminate waste production. Risks linked to safety, hygiene, sterility and accuracy complicate the acceptation of innovations regarding reuse in the medical sector. A product must be technically reusable and cleanable. And even more important: medical staff and patients need to trust and be willing to (re)use these products.

Non-invasive medical devices are an ideal starting point for the transition to circularity in healthcare. This medical device group includes medical textile products, such as gowns and drapes, which are the focus of this research. The challenge is to make “reusability” desirable and acceptable in the sector, meanwhile the focus is also to further optimise these reusable products in terms of functionality by introducing applications of smart textiles, which for disposable products that mainly focus on price, usually is not feasible.

Timeline: 2022 – 2024

Funding: VLAIO Tetra

VLAIO Baekeland: MIVAS Circulair

Abstract: Sheltered workplaces, also known as Work Integration Social Enterprises (WISE), play a crucial role in Belgium’s social economy. These impact-driven companies employ people who face barriers to traditional employment, providing a socio-economic context for over 26,000 individuals. While they have strong relationships with customers, their traditional executive role in the value chain has made them economically dependent. However, there’s a growing trend of impact-driven companies collaborating with sheltered workplaces to enhance positive social impact. One such company, Mivas, faces sustainability challenges in its packaging activities and is exploring a transition to the circular economy. Research aims to identify strategic opportunities for sheltered workplaces, considering stakeholders, skills, and systemic perspectives.


Funding: VLAIO Baekeland

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VLAIO Living Lab: Reuse in style

Abstract: The fashion industry faces sustainability challenges, including the short lifecycle of clothing due to fast fashion. To address this, a PhD focuses on extending the lifetime (LTE) of clothing and accessories. Behaviour change is essential for achieving LTE, with sustainable consumers driving the industry toward a circular economy. The research aims to gather knowledge on design for LTE and reuse. Quality perception plays a crucial role in behaviour change, and clothing must meet recognizable quality requirements for reuse. Through literature study, collaboration with exemplary fashion companies, and user testing, design interventions will be developed. The goal is to transition the fashion industry toward circular practices, emphasizing product longevity and repair.

Timing: 2022-2025

Funding: VLAIO Living Lab

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VLAIO Living Lab: Plastics

Abstract: 59% of plastic waste collected in Belgium is still incinerated. Besides recycling, other circular strategies such as reuse and recovery are hardly seen in the plastics sector. Yet, it is precisely these strategies that ensure the highest intrinsic retention of value of an object. The main reasons for these missed opportunities are the wide variety of plastics found in a wide range of applications and diverse compositions, the low price of virgin raw materials and the lack of a tracking mechanism. This living lab builds on the ambition to make recycling the last safety net for plastic waste and to circulate plastic objects, parts and raw materials in short chains. This will maximise cumulative value across the life cycle and preserve raw materials. These changes require profound transitions in the areas of - circular design with plastics; - the local organisation of plastics value chains. 10 use cases form the heart of this living lab. In choosing the cases, the focus is on recovering hard plastics that today go to the incinerator in the highest possible quality. That is where the biggest (social) gains can be made. For each of these cases, we examine why collection or recycling of the plastics has not happened so far, how it can be done in the future and what exactly is needed for other circular strategies to become the standard. To this end, we connect the entire value chain and arrive at new design strategies with plastics and blueprints for new collection, disassembly, sorting and production organisation in short chains. We embed these - in various academic and professional curricula (design and chemistry); - in policy recommendations (OVAM, Flanders Circular working agendas); - in sector consultation (Interafval, Essenscia, HERW!N, Groep Maatwerk); - and through the network of Social Circular Hubs in Flanders.

Funding: VLAIO Living Lab

Related courses

The bachelor and master program of Product Development integrate sustainability (and integrity and ethical design) as one of their core foundations of their program. To learn the theory on ecological sustainability, one course is specifically teaching sustainable design in the 2nd bachelor. This course includes both theory and a design task to learn how sustainable design can be implemented. More information about the course can be found here  Furthermore, the sustainable mindset is further encouraged and integrated in the whole program allowing students to find their own focus within the domain of sustainability for whom they want to take extra responsibility and have impact through design. Especially in the master theses, this results in beautiful radical innovations that enable pleasant sustainable transitions.

  • Duurzaam Ontwerpen (2Ba)
  • Ecodesign (1Ba)
  • Master thesis (2Ma)

Previous master theses:


Principal investigators


​Team Medical reuse:

Team Fashion reuse:

Team Nature4Nature

Team circular reuse (including packaging, chemical, plastics,..) :

Alumni researchers

We are proud to have unclear team borders as we team up with everyone (in the research group, in the university and abroad) who has the needed expertise to solve a specific challenge in the transition towards reuse

Associations & partners