At this point, we thought there wasn’t much we could do to change the situation. However, a meeting with Orangebox changed our perspective. Orangebox manufacture office chairs, and a few years previously had started offering to remove any old chairs before they delivered their new ones. This was to offer a better service to their customers, but had a big knock-on effect. They started disassembling the chairs to try and recover and sell the materials. They quickly realised it was taking an employee 45 minutes to take the chair apart, and their labour cost was wiping out the value of the materials they were recovering. This changed their design priorities for their next chair; the Ara chair could be pulled apart by hand, materials were standardised and the next life of the product had already been planned.
We were impressed. These were simple design changes that made the material easy to recover and maintained quality, but we realised the most crucial part wasn’t the design details but getting the product back to the manufacturer. These design changes would have made no difference in the collective model of waste recycling we had seen at the recycling centre. But because Orangebox took their own products back, they had the motivation to make sure they could recover the material value as quickly and cleanly as possible.