My guilty conscious over single-use plastics started with the cases of bottled water, I used to stock in my household. After seeing horrific images of “plastic debris islands” floating in oceans, I switched to filtered refrigerator water that I carry around in my Yeti. In our throw-away culture, the plastics problem is hard to ignore and scary to think about its future ramifications for our planet.
According to Earth Day 2018, 32% of the 78 million tons of plastic packaging produced annually is left to flow into our oceans. By 2050, this could mean there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans.
Reducing plastics production and consumption is only part of the solution to the plastics problem. The other half of the solution deals with the question: What to do with all of this existing plastic refuse? A growing design movement is using single-use plastic as a material for art and craft. At the forefront is a group of designers creating objects from recycled plastics as a longterm solution to the single-use plastic issue.
Their work was showcased at London Design Fair, in an exhibit entitled “Plastic, Beyond the Chipper.” Designers: Dirk vander Kooij, Charlotte Kidger, Kodai Iwamoto and Weez & Merl treat gathered plastic waste as a virgin material, imbuing it with new worth and meaning. Charlotte Kidger uses a zero-waste process in the making of durable sculptural objects.
Charlotte uses lightweight polyurethane foam dust, a by-product after the milling process left in abundant volumes. “Given that this material is still regarded as a niche plastic, it’s only means of disposal is through incineration or landfill. With a clear design opportunity I set out to find ways of utilizing and repurposing this undervalued and problematic material,” Charlotte says.
Kodai Iwamoto creates flower vases from PVC pipe by applying air pressure into a closed PVC pipe, slowly warmed by a heater to make it soft so he can mold it. Kodai says his PVC Handblowing Project gives what was a mass produced and cheap material, a new value
by transforming it into a well-made object.
Weez & Merl works with LDPE (Low-Density Polyethylene) found in carrier bags, bubble wrap and film packaging. The designers say LDPE is easy to work with by hand and can be endlessly remelted and repurposed to create truly sustainable products.
Dirk Vander Kooij uses reclaimed synthetics ranging from CDs to rooftop windows to make his objects. Dirk uses 3D printing to create his buitenhuis chandelier.
Each year, London Design Fair places the spotlight on a material currently holding precedence in the design world. With plastic as the focus for 2018, participating designers were selected who demonstrate how plastic is being repurposed in imaginative and valuable ways as a new virgin material in their creations.
At the forefront of recycling ocean plastics into useful objects are is a group of designers and companies known as the NextWave initiative who are leveraging supply chains as a means of keeping plastics out of the ocean.
Bureo joined forces with Costa Sunglasses to create The Untangled Collection. The sunglass frames are constructed from 100% recycled fishing nets and are fit with mineral glass lenses, avoiding the use of any new plastic materials and providing superior lens clarity and durability. The new line of responsible sunglasses features Costa’s patented 580 polarized lens technology in four new styles.
Humanscale, another founding member of NextWave Initiative worked with Bureo to produce the Smart Ocean chair that incorporates almost 2 lbs. of recycled fishing net material (NetPlus).
The nets are then transformed into plastic pellets and used to manufacture quality products such as skateboards, sunglasses, and now — for the first time ever — an ergonomic task chair.
Humanscale was the first company in the world to receive the Living Product Challenge certification in September 2016. The certification recognizes like-minded companies sharing the mission to achieve a net positive impact with their products and production methods.
Brands such as American Express are offering solutions to single-use plastics with innovative packing and products. Amex is creating the world’s first credit card made from upcycled marine plastic pollution. The global credit card company is partnering with Parley AIR to introduce the first credit card made primarily using Ocean Plastic. American Express’s first ocean plastic card is currently at prototype stage, but is expected to be available within 12 months.
The aim of the collaboration is to raise awareness and offer a solution to the growing marine plastic problem. Amex says it’s waging war on single-use plastics, committing to a number of waste-reduction strategies as well as reduced carbon emissions, switching to renewable energy, and aiming for zero-waste certification for its headquarters by 2025.
As its answer to combating ocean plastic debris, cosmetics company Lush launched a ‘naked’ line of products free from packaging, as part of a new campaign launched on World Oceans Day (June 8). Lush says more than 40 percent of its products is completely packaging-free. The company’s ‘naked’ products aim to raise awareness of the effect of single-use plastic on ocean life and start a discussion on how consumers can tackle this global issue.
For more on what’s new and next in design, subscribe to The Design Tourist Channel and sign up for the blog email.