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A circular design and business model for medical facemasks.



Project details

Client: DSM N.V.


Partners: iLINQ and Dijkgraaf Strategisch Advies

Project stakeholders: Dutch PPE Solutions (joint venture of VDL group and DSM N.V.), Maasstad hospital, Renewi and PreZero

Objective: To create a circular business model for medical facemasks.

Project scope: Concept design including feasibility study and pilot set-up


circular business model of facemasks

Project background
In this project we designed, and investigated the feasibility of a circular design, business model and value chain for medical facemasks produced by the collaboration between DSM and VDL, called Dutch PPE Solutions. At the start of the covid pandemic in 2020 significant challenges arose. One of the most pressing challenges was the lack of supply in, and the dependency on abroad suppliers for medical protective equipment such as facemasks. This dependency resulted in significant shortages in the beginning of the pandemic. Moreover, it was expected that due to e.g. lack in quality (control) there would be an abundance of products in later phases of the pandemic. The product design made them doomed to be incinerated. This resulted in the incineration of millions of kilos of high-value and non-renewable raw materials.

Therefore, there was a clear need for a reliable local manufacturer. The joint venture between DSM and VDL took the responsibility to step in as a reliable local manufacturer.
The pandemic’s conditions required to prioritise speed of development. This meant that there was room for further improvement on sustainability and circularity. Therefore, ReCover was created with the aim of closing the value chain to create a circular model. The project scope consisted of three goals. Development of a [1] circular product, with [2] a circular value chain and [3] a circular business model. The project was later transformed into a public tender with RVO to further investigate the technical, economical and organisational feasibility.


The project approach consisted of three stages:

1. Defining and investigating the most critical feasibility criteria;
   - stakeholder engagement;
   - legal; 
   - medical;
   - design & material.

2. Defining the circular value chain consortium;
   - stakeholder activities & responsibility;
   - pilot set-up.

3. Optimising manufacturing and design for sustainability & circularity;
   - design for comfort;
   - design for recycling;
   - manufacturing for sustainability.

- Mapping the new circular value chain and identifying collaboration partners.

- Conducting brainstorms and interviews to gain insight into the value chain, product & customer journey and define feasibility criteria.

- Co-creating product and value chain solutions for a circular business model together with hospital staff.

- Defining a strategy design for closing the value chain based on the feasibility criteria.

- Creating an integrated concept design for the product and its journey.

- Creating a pilot set-up including activities, responsibilities and measurements.

The short term project deliverable for DSM included a short and long term approach for achieving gains and insights on sustainability and circularity. This included a feasibility assessment and visual pilot roadmap for a circular business model concept. The deliverable formed the basis of a procurement project for the Dutch government together with the previously involved stakeholders. This phase resulted in tested and investigated strategies to mitigate the most critical feasibility criteria, including the aspects of product design, value chain and recycling. The end result included a complete concept design of product and value chain based on the findings of the feasibility study, and an action plan for the next steps towards commercialisation. 

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