Newsletter May 2023

The astute among you will notice there was no newsletter in April. I decided not to publish one because there just wasn’t enough quality information to share.

It can be tempting to give in to the pressure to be constantly visible, but this just adds to the deluge of mediocre content that bombards us on the daily.

That said I attended an excellent event last week, a discussion about the role of AI in design. It was organised by IDI feed and featured 4 entertaining and informative talks by members of the visual design community. My takeaways from the event were as follows;

  • AI is a numbers game. It is capable of generating idea after idea. A lot might be terrible but the fact that it doesn’t filter out ‘bad’ ideas opens up conversations around ideas that us humans would have dismissed outright.
  • The architecture of current tools is terrible at tracking idea generation, which has to be done manually by designers.
  • The output is only as good at the prompts, which is where the creativity comes in. Knowing where to push the technology and the story you’re using it to tell.
  • Legislation is lagging behind the technology. Those creators whose images are being used to produce AI content need to be able to opt-in and be paid for having their images used as prompts for AI or opt out completely.
  • Human eyes are still needed to catch errors that AI generates and to step in when the technology starts to ‘hallucinate’
  • Because content on the internet is biased and largely created by a certain cohort of humans, i.e, pale males, the ideas generated by AI reflect that bias. If we don’t address this we risk reinforcing it.
  • Training AI on your own personal content can enhance your own creative process, and avoid generic cookie cookie output

Have you started to use AI yet? I have.

I’ve only dipped my toe in so far, using it to help me rephrase text and the like. We definitely need some legislative framework to protect content creators and some guiderails to limit errors, but AI will inevitably change the nature of how we do things in the future.

Okay, on with the latest circular economy & design news …..

Bad News

Ireland reached the year’s Overshoot Day on the 21st April, showing no improvement on last year. An overshoot day is the day that a country has used up all the resources that the earth can sustainably replenish in a year.

Good News

Check out this year’s shortlist and winners of the global circular ideas competition Make it Circular 

Innovative Thinking

Here’s a quirky example of designing out waste, frying without oil!


New study confirms link between PFAS – ‘forever chemicals’ — in drinking water and weight gain

Clothing & Textiles

This is a superb report by the Institute of Positive Fashion looking at how to solve the issue of returns in fashion

French research company has made polyester from captured CO2

New wood-based technology removes 80 percent of dye pollutants in wastewater

Kintra Fibres have developed a bio-based biodegradable polyester that uses the same equipment as PET

US based Outdoor recreation brand SmartWool have teamed up with Material Return to collect and deconstruct hard-to-recycle socks and have launched their first circular-designed product: a sock made of socks.

The first vegan bio-based textile was made from peanuts in the 1940s by textile physicist William Astbury 

Outdoor leisure brand Decathlon launches rental service across UK 

UK brand Seasalt launches fashion resale platform

The world’s first standard for compostable textiles is under development in Australia


The German-Tunisian mobility start-up Bako Motors has recently provided six health centres with solar-powered electric tricycles.

Furniture, Finishes and Fittings

Removable, reusable decorative wall tiles by Danish company Click n Tile!

Haworth receive Cradle to Cradle Certified® Bronze for The Zody Task seating

Finnish design company Woodio has created a toilet formed from wood composite, the production of which reportedly generates 99 per cent fewer emissions than ceramic counterparts.


A coalition of civil society groups has filed a complaint against Amazon, Ikea and Tom Tailor for what it calls a “failure” of corporate due diligence under Germany’s Supply Chain Act, which came into effect in January 2023

If you purchase or supply timber this podcast episode on the new EU timber regulations from IWIN is excellent


In the UK Veolia has launched a national vape collection service which aims to provide a safe disposal and recycling route for e-cigarettes.

Google has releases a report on its two-year trial of AI-driven robots sorting recyclables and waste.

Plastic wet wipes to be banned in the UK from next year


UK’s plastic packaging tax earns the country over £200 million

Tesco launches circular initiative for ready-meal packaging


If you work in in repairing and refurbishing tell the EU how to help the repair sector thrive.

A report by the waste management company SUEZ , estimates that by 2028, the repair and reuse sector in the UK has the potential to generate sales revenues of over £63 million per year.

EU Commission has adopted a new ‘Right to Repair’ proposal. The next step is to have the proposal adopted by the European Parliament and the Council.


Helsinki recently switched off the coal power station that has run their district heating system for fifty years – cutting their emissions by 20% at a single stroke. Heat will in future be provided by a combination of biomass, waste heat recycling and heat pumps.

Magnotherm has launched a fully-magnetic, ultra low-energy, beverage cooler called Polaris, which is also virtually noise-free.

Extra, Extra

This isn’t a circular economy news story, but I’m including it because I think it’s one of the best examples of raw honesty about the trials of running a business by the founder of the Irish honey based drink Beekon.

Along with this newsletter I’ve uploaded an article that I’d originally written for the visual design network 100 Archive about How to Spot & Avoid Greenwashed Projects


If you’d like to discuss any of these issues feel free to get in touch via our contact page.


Published by Elaine Butler

I am a circular design consultant helping manfacturers prepare for the circular economy