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Design & Technology

Social, moral, environmental and legal issues

Environmental issues

Making a product uses resources, such as raw materials and energy. This has an impact on the environment.

There are a number of things that a designer might think about to reduce environmental impact:

  • The material used to make the product.
  • The life of the product.
  • What happens to the product at the end of its life.

We will look at these three areas in more detail.

Materials and the environment

One way to reduce impact on the environment is to use less material in the product. This might mean asking questions about what is needed or whether it could be made smaller (or thinner) and still do the same job. It could also mean using an alternative material with better properties, so that not as much of the material is required.


Timber is a renewable resource, which means that if forests and woodlands are carefully managed, we will never run out of it. Timber is easy to reuse and can be burnt to produce heat when at the end of its natural life. It is also biodegradablebiodegradable: Material that can be broken down in the environment by microorganisms..


Most metals are relatively easy to recycle and reuse, and there are advantages for manufacturers. It is 20 times more efficient to recycle aluminium cans than to make new ones.


Although most plastics are not biodegradable, they can be recycled and reused. Polystyrene vending cups can be recycled to make items such as pencils and rulers, and plastic carrier bags can be reused.

Back to Resistant materials index

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