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Design Products (MA)

Sean McCarthy

Excited by design that provides social and ecological benefit to solve global challenges.

With experience in industrial and community design, my passion is moving towards a more sustainable and equitable world through industrial ecology practices and open-source tools, bringing sustainability to the everyday. My designs empower individuals to create healthier and more prosperous local economies, but also encourage community engagement and local pride. On the national level, I design to change the way our supply chains are organised by altering the perception of what society deems as waste, ultimately to reduce unnecessary extraction of materials.

2017-2020: Product Design (BSc) - 1st class (Hons)

Nottingham Trent University

2020-2021: Young Innovators Award 2020/2021

Innovate UK

2023: Robin and Lucienne Day Foundation Award

Headshot Image

Promote equity by solving global social and ecological problems

Reduced dependency on the fragile globalised petrochemical economy through self-reliance on a local and national level

Change perceptions that sustainability results in loss of quality

Create industrial or open-source products that use existing infrastructure to compete with economies of scale.

Utilise 100% naturally degradable renewable waste resources.

Close collaboration with expertise from diverse fields

Image of a moulded chess piece using a biomaterial, and cut sections
Image of Sean McCarthy in the workshop

A Novel Material

Searching the UK and collaborating with various disciplines, I have combined a variety of UK sourced large quantity organic waste streams to realise a novel structural material.

Industrially manufacturable, versatile, biodegradable and recyclable whilst sequestering carbon and reduces methane emissions in manufacture.

The material has a high strength to weight ratio, great insulating properties, and can be machined to a high quality, smooth surface.

Applications include injection moulded parts, press moulded parts, machined parts, indoor partition walls, plinths and exhibition displays, furniture, decorative elements, temporary structures for gardening, and many more.

This project is seeking funding for material development, pushing the boundaries of what can be made using industrial manufacturing practices.

Various images of the moulding process
Process of Drilling and Tapping a screw thread
Side Image of Copper Wire Separator

A Global Challenge

Only 20% of global E-waste is formally recycled, meaning 80% of global E-waste ends up in landfill or is processed through informal means. Burning copper wire to recover the precious metal inside is fast and uncomplicated, but causes huge problems. It not only reduces the quality of copper recovered, but also releases toxic fumes, causing serious health risks.

Close Angle Shot of Mechanism
Swirling Bowl to Separate Copper
Concept Images of How an E-waste Recycling Plant Will Operate

EcoWork enables informal recyclers to safety process waste through shared infrastructure that can be rented out per day.

This design collaborates with the organization to produce cost effective tools and machines to process the wire for their pilot scheme in North East Delhi. This has to beat current informal methods.

The aim is to increase processing volumes, reduce water pollution and health hazards. Keeping designs simple, hand operated, and built using locally sourced materials.

This is a cable granule separating system for mixed copper and PVC.The Design operates using flotation separation, where the copper is denser than the plastic. Water flows through the system, and the plastic flows over the hosepipe whilst the copper remains. The copper then moves up the system with the spiral of the hose. The mechanism is entirely hand operated and can circulate the water used with further development. 

Side View of Large Scale Prototype


Scrap Materials, simple fabricated parts


1000mm X 600mm