What Design Can Do 2017
Plastic waste and biomimicry.
Written by Craig Berry
Designer & Writer
On the 24th May at the Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ, VBAT held 2 breakout sessions at the 2017 What Design Can Do annual conference; this year focusing on the ever-important topic of Climate Change. Here we will reflect on these 2 sessions.
VBAT approached the students of the Experience Design Course of Hyper Island for their cooperation to help think about the ideas of climate change and come up with concepts for potential breakout sessions to run at WDCD. The first session chosen and developed was:
Don't Waste Waste: A second life for ocean plastic.
For this session we collaborated with WASTED, an Amsterdam based organisation and small laboratory dedicated to plastic waste reprocessing, teaching young and old people about plastic waste as well as successfully creating a local initiative, allowing people to recycle their plastic waste and receive ‘coins’ which can then be spent at selected local companies and businesses, effectively creating a currency from waste. WASTED were able to inform the participants of the breakout session about the different types of plastic that are out there and how we can look for different plastics.
We also had Mathias Worbin from the design team of IKEA give his opinions on plastic as a material for design and inform us on how IKEA deals with plastic. He explained that it is difficult to design furniture that doesn’t use plastic but IKEA try to use recycled and recyclable/bio-degradable plastic where possible.
The participants of the session, in their teams, were given a bag of waste plastic and following a simple flow-chart were able to sort the plastic into 6 different plastic containers: PET, PP, PS, HDPE, LDPE and PVC. WASTED then explained what each of these plastics where used for along with their advantages and disadvantages. Each team then had to think of a problem that existed in their neighbourhood and using their given plastic, use it as a material to solve that problem. Some solutions for the problems were:
- Creating plastic cavity walls and plastic sound reflectors to reduce noise pollution.
- Building a plastic high-speed cycling lane to avoid slow cycling tourists at the weekends.
- Making postboxes more personal and customisable by using coloured recycled plastic to allow neighbours to socialise with one-another.
Hopefully all of the participants of this sessions took away a greater knowledge that all plastics aren't just ‘plastic’ but that several exist that can be used for different purposes and how they can or can’t be recycled. By having this knowledge they can use this to prevent further pollution of our oceans and also how they may be able to incorporate recycled plastics in design.
The second session we developed was with the Brazilian designer and biomimicry expert and professor Fred Gelli:
Biomimicry: The future of packaging design
Biomimicry is an important thing to consider when designing in this day and age, using nature and the attributes of animals, plants and cells to inspire design. Fred Gelli, of the design agency Tátil, is an an expert and for 15 years he has been a university professor in the fields of ecodesign and biomimicry. Again our participants where in teams where they first learnt about biomimicry and the role of nature in design before being set an intense 30 minute challenge.
Using a range of different nature cards, each with an animal, plant or cell and its attributes, teams were asked to use them to survive a flood of Amsterdam. They needed to find methods to preserve, float, hunt and store, meanwhile the impending loud timer in the background ticked away until the city of Amsterdam became submersed under-water and teams presented their approaches.
The teams’ approaches and methods of the task varied from using nature to design a new product, creating a mutant-hybrid animal with many features to survive and simply using nature to solve the problems literally:
- Living in a giant coconut shell that can float whilst holding groups of people, using the hard shell to protect from the environment
- Creating a gecko-esque sticky net that gathers waste plastic to float whilst filtering water to drink and survive.
- A large mutant pelican which can hold people as well as gathering material via its large mouth.
- Groups of lily-pads which can float and hold people whilst being able to attach to each other to allow communities to join together.
- A flood-emergency pack that provides everything you would need to solve a flood quickly and effectively.
Each of the team’s methods were highly ingenious, intuitive and innovative in their ways of thinking, truly embracing the idea of biomimicry. Hopefully the participants can implement biomimicry into their future design projects, as well as experiencing working under a tight time deadline to produce ideas — similar to real agency life.
Overall we believe that both of our breakout sessions where a great success, we received some great feedback from the participants as well as our collaborators. The WASTED team, Matthias Worbin and Fred Gelli stuck around after the sessions and answered many questions which is great to see that they were enthralled by the sessions.
Also to coincide with our sessions at WDCD we worked with Dutch magazine, FONK to design a poster and magazine cover entitled “DO SOMETHING” — a call for people to do something about climate change otherwise the worst will happen and our beautiful planet will cease to be so beautiful.
Do you want to do something? Join the What Design Can Do Climate Action Challenge:
Read more blog posts on craig-berry.co.uk or my Medium page.