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Collaboration
Powering Circular Product Design:
The Eastman and Stanley Black & Decker Journey

Whatever your product category — including those in which recycled content or recyclable products are rare — circular design can help your brand delight consumers and meet sustainability goals.

Eliminating waste is a top-tier environmental concern for consumers, whether they are worried about waste piling up in landfills or microplastics in waterways. That concern influences consumer product preferences. 80 percent of US Gen Z and Millennial consumers, in fact, want brands to make it easier to find sustainable products — namely, those that are recyclable or made using recycled content (Eastman, 2023 Consumer Insights Report).

Many brands are already pushing to meet that demand by setting goals for recycled content or recyclability; companies realize that circularity is a key strategy for achieving other high-profile climate and waste goals, too. Stanley Black & Decker is one such company.

To that end, Eastman and Stanley Black & Decker partnered to create a new line of power tools with circular attributes. We learned that closing the gap between a company’s goals and great products is a journey in four parts. It starts with brand motivation. It involves innovative materials during product design and extends to when your product have reached the end of its life. And it doesn’t stop once the product is out the factory door: The story you tell in the market matters.

Motivation

Your company’s purpose isn’t simply a statement on your website's “About” page. Hopefully, it has been a north star for your company’s overall environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategy. It can also guide you in setting circular design priorities so you can bring the strategy to life in your products.

Stanley Black & Decker’s purpose, “For Those Who Make the World,” helped launch its ESG strategy in 2017. As part of that strategy, the company has commitments to drive sustainable innovation that delivers Scope 3 emissions reductions and improvements in packaging recyclability. It realized a circular design approach offered a practical way to pursue these commitments — specifically with its BLACK+DECKER brand.

Eastman’s consumer insights team worked with BLACK+DECKER to help meld brand purpose with a keen awareness of consumer values and sustainability motivators. We pulled insights from our proprietary, global consumer studies and our 5,000-person-strong US and European consumer panel to provide the BLACK+DECKER team insight into their audiences’ expectations.

We also partnered on a material cost analysis to help the BLACK+DECKER team understand financial risks and think through pricing structures for circular products.

Our work during this phase of the journey motivated internal stakeholders to support creation of a new product line, BLACK+DECKER reviva™, designed with circular product attributes and targeted to young DIYers.

Materials and product design

Ongoing Eastman research across product categories demonstrates that consumers frequently evaluate whether a product is sustainable based on the materials it is made from (Eastman, 2023 US & European Consumer Community study). This insight makes material selection — incorporating more recycled content, biobased content, etc — a prime starting point for circular innovation.

BLACK+DECKER and Eastman technical and product teams worked together closely to ideate and test different types of circular materials that would deliver the performance, durability and quality consumers expect.

The teams agreed Eastman Tritan Renew copolyester was right for the job: 50 percent recycled material, plus the rigorous performance required for the enclosures of reviva power tools. Tritan Renew is produced using Eastman’s molecular-recycling technology, so the recycled content is indistinguishable from virgin plastic in terms of performance. The environmental impact, however, is distinctly different. This molecular recycling technology diverts waste plastic from landfills and reduces use of fossil-based resources. Eastman’s third-party lifecycle analysis also demonstrates that our molecular-recycling technology results in 29 percent lower GHG emissions compared to conventional processes.

Using a single type of plastic — in this case, Tritan Renew — aids in making a product easier to recycle at end of life. The BLACK+DECKER team also realized that making the new tools recyclable meant making them easy to disassemble. So, unlike many of the company’s other power tools, the casings for this product line were designed without elastomer over-molds; and the integral battery has been designed to be easily removed during the recycling process, to aid in the recapturing of the critical metals inside.

Planning for end of life

Designing with recycled content and for recyclability are critical for circularity — but brands don’t have to stop there. They can help design an end-of-life pathway for products (and packaging) to get from consumers’ hands into recycling facilities.

For example, perhaps your brand makes packaging from PET — which is accepted in curbside recycling. You can also participate in extended producer responsibility (EPR) programs to help increase the recycling system’s efficacy.

For products, your brand can design and implement take-back programs, tap into existing industry recycling partnerships, or team up directly with a material recycler such as Eastman.

Stanley Black & Decker continues to explore opportunities to enable consumers to recycle the various components of end-of-life tools. The company and its brands have a long history of supporting battery-recycling programs through a partnership with Call2Recycle — which provides clear, simple ways for consumers to help keep their old batteries out of landfills; and end-of-life tool programs with TerraCycle, which can directly accept reviva and other BLACK+DECKER products — including those with internal lithium-ion batteries.

Expanding the audience

Circularity” is not yet a part of most consumers’ vocabulary; so, touting circularity in terms of corporate strategy can fall flat in communications. But when your brand has translated the abstract concept of circularity into products that consumers can use and enjoy, the story becomes concrete and meaningful. It becomes a story consumers want to hear.

Eastman’s consumer insights and marketing communications teams supported BLACK+DECKER as they crafted the reviva story and promotional strategy. We knew from our own consumer research that molecular recycling (the technology used to create Tritan Renew) especially resonates with Gen Z and Millennial audiences; in fact, nearly 60 percent agree that molecular recycling “helps solve the plastic waste crisis” (Eastman, 2023 Consumer Insights Report). Together, our teams developed ways to illustrate the impact of recycled plastics for each item in the new reviva line; and we brought the story of molecular recycling to life across various channels.

What's next for your brand?

Whatever your product category — including those in which recycled content or recyclable products are rare — circular design can help your brand delight consumers and meet sustainability goals.

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