photo of Dan Dicker with his latest product, rCup

Alumnus shares advice on being more sustainable at public lecture

Last week, an alumnus of Loughborough University and the managing director and founder of Ashortwalk, Dan Dicker, shared his journey about designing products from waste.

photo of the rCup - with blue and grey speckled design

Image: The rCup

Graduating from the University with a degree in Industrial Design and Technology with Education in 1995, Dan commented that his degree was valuable and helped him to become an entrepreneur, having been taught about ‘the practicalities and realities of design’.

After working as a designer at several companies – including Spiraz Sarco and Dyson - Dan decided in 2003 to set up his own business, Ashortwalk, specialising in products made from recycled resources.

Ashortwalk has grown over the years to form a small but expanding firm, with more than 15 employees working hard to design and manufacture products made from waste.

Examples include a plant pot made from reused milk bottles, chopping boards from recycled paper, plant hangers from old car batteries and coasters from Guinness’s malt waste.

Recently, Ashortwalk have launched the rCup– the world’s first reusable cup made from recycled paper cups. The rCup sends a message to society that recycled materials are valuable; the cup’s outer layer is visibly and distinctly made from recycled material. Dan believes that products like the rCup can inspire people to engage with environmental issues, and act upon them.

an infographic explaining the process of creating the rCup

With 300 million tonnes of plastic being produced annually, Dan explained that only 2% of this staggering figure gets made back into products. Designers and engineers thus play a pivotal role in transforming the linear model of “take, make and dispose” of goods to a circular one whereby materials, including plastics, are reintroduced to make new products.

Dan shared his four pieces of advice to design more sustainably:

  1. Reduce plastic: Plastic is an incredibly useful and valuable material but should not be used frivolously. Reduce plastic use when not required.
  2. Aspire towards longevity: Design products that will last, rather than creating disposable, short-term goods. Ashortwalk have designed the rCup to last 10+ years and offer a free replacement seal to further the rCup’s lifespan.
  3. Consider end of life: Consider the product’s end of life when designing it in the first place. Can it be easily recycled? Include materials that will also be valuable once recycled.
  4. Invest in infrastructure: Investment needs to be put into infrastructure that enables the public to respond to environmental challenges by allowing them to recycle easily and effectively.

The rCup is now available to buy at retail outlets across the University campus at a cost of £12. It is fully insulated, 100% leakproof, and includes features such as 360 drinking and a push-push mechanism which makes it easy to open and close with one hand.