Inspiring a greener way to make a profit

Businesses are waking up to the advantages of using recycled products in manufacturing. One initiative is helping to give them a more competitive edge in this respect. Robin Snook explains

Many manufacturers have not realised the option of using recycled materials when making their products. But consumer demand is driving some to gain a competitive edge by seizing the opportunity. Businesses can often reduce their costs and increase their profits, while demonstrating corporate social responsibility through showing their commitment to the environment.

However, it is not just about businesses showing they are responsible for their environmental impact and looking at ways to reduce the burden. Consumers are looking more and more for a range of green credentials in products. The market is evolving and likely to develop rapidly in the next few years. Flexible businesses that can react quickly will be able to reap the rewards of their innovation.

Inspired Recycling is an initiative for manufacturers and designers with an excellent record of assisting start-ups and small to medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in creating and evolving sustainable designs, prototypes and existing products. Delivered by London Remade, the enhance programme, WestFocus and Kingston University, Inspired Recycling is principally funded by the European Regional Development Fund.

The programme offers a range of tailored support, knowledge and expertise enabling SMEs to practically consider the options and benefits associated with incorporating a recycled or reprocessed material within their product manufacture. The WestFocus alliance provides technical resources across its seven universities, in terms of rapid prototyping, knowledge of plastics and polymers, traditional manufacturing and many other technical considerations.

Creating opportunities

Through its work, Inspired Recycling is trying to redress the imbalance in London’s economy by tackling barriers to opportunity in key areas suffering from:

  • industrial decline
  • urban deprivation
  • low economic activity and social exclusion

The initiative offers new, sustainable opportunities to all people living and working in objective 2 areas in London – objective 2 areas are those defined by the EU as needing help from its major structural funds for supporting social and economic restructuring.

The programme is available to businesses within these disadvantaged wards in 13 of London’s boroughs: Havering, Barking & Dagenham, Bexley, Hammersmith & Fulham, Greenwich, Brent, Ealing, Enfield, Haringey, Waltham Forest, Hackney, Tower Hamlets, and Newham.

It is especially keen to work closely with manufacturers to identify new product opportunities and production process improvements. Advisors will help recognise some easily achievable commercial benefits, such as accessing new customers or markets, as well as making recommendations around improving manufacturing performance which will lead to lower costs and a stronger net profit margin.

There is huge and untapped potential for businesses to become involved in material reprocessing, as well as incorporating more recycled materials into existing products and processes. And many designers and inventors are in need of capable manufacturing partners.

The green pound

The benefits of sustainable design and resource efficiency are fast becoming prominent in the industry. SMEs can access new markets and customers as organisations, particularly in the public sector, are looking for an increased green or sustainable element within the products and services they purchase. Also, there will clearly be direct commercial benefits to be achieved by incorporating a recycled material or applying the principle of material reprocessing.

With the help of Inspired Recycling, manufacturers can take advantage of the dramatic change in buying behaviour for products incorporating recycled materials.

  • For more information on the programme and its work, go to:

Robin Snook is senior project manager at Inspired Recycling

Case study: on your bike

Inspired Recycling helped Andrew Lang Product Design take its multi-award-winning Cycloc design from prototype to production. Andrew Lang approached Inspired Recycling with his innovative design for a bicycle storage rack to get assistance in manufacturing the product from recycled plastic, and to take it to market.

The manufacturing challenges were discussed and he was introduced to plastic recycling experts. A business plan was developed with Lang; the programme provided technical advice and identified funding to develop the design and aid product tooling. The Cycloc is now being produced commercially – the black version is made from 100% recycled post-industrial plastic – and is proving popular with both trade and public customers. For details, go to

Case study: Designer wrap

Another Inspired Recycling success story revolves around Lisa Jones who was designing a range of handmade, screen-printed greetings stationery, but wanted to extend the range by working with recycled papers.

Last year, the programme assisted her in producing 100% recycled wrapping paper, which was stocked in outlets such as the Conran Shop, Liberty and Tatty Devine.

Inspired Recycling established a relationship with Aldgate Press, which then printed the limited-edition paper – producing a designer product which sold out. She has since designed further stylish ranges of 100% recycled wrapping paper that are now being launched more widely. For details, go to

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie