MATERIALITY & AGGREGATION

Commission Steps Research Program

2020

Humanity faces three major sustainability challenges

related to plastics. We need to decrease our

dependence on fossil raw materials,

improve our use of resources, and increase plastic recycling

and reuse. Simultaneously we need to prevent plastics

from polluting and leaking into our environment.

Kajsa Willner was assigned the mission by STEPS research programme to translate their research report into an informative curated design exhibition. Where functional art could work as a brindge to communicate their research in an outdoor exhibition for the public, designers and architects.

A panel discussion was held in connection to the opening between scientist, plastic industry and me as a designer. The exhibition Materiality & Aggregation had its starting point in a discussion brief brought forward by STEPS on how to face society’s major sustainability challenges related to plastics. The five pathways – reduce use, recycle more, fewer types, bio-based plastics sand biodegradable plastics – were interpreted separately in the exhibition but all together are crucial for a transition towards a more sustainable plastic future. 

REDUCE

– How can we put an end to

the unnecessary consumption of disposable plastic?

This pathway calls for both political, societal and individual actions. Political action is called upon to adress certain types of plastic uses through taxes, public procurement guidelines and other instruments. Individuals are encourage to use less plastic and decrease their amount of waste.

Designer Interpretation:

28 disposable/on-the-go plastic articles moulded into bio-based plastic. Disposable items that we use every day only once or twice before throwing it away, this without even thinking about it.

RECYCLE

– How do we create products that

are designed from the start to be reused and recycled

in new or existing circular systems?

This pathway is intimately linked to ideas of circular economy which material loops are closed through improved product design and end-of-life processing. Recycling rates for most types of plastic products  are unacceptably low or non-existent. By pushing for guideines, a ban on landfills, and standards for sorting, we can change current state of affairs.

 

Designer Interpretation: 

Using the Troxler Effect (which means that if you stare at the point for a few seconds the image behind will disappear.)If we stare to blindly at details we will lose sight of the holistic view required in a transition towards a more circular plastic system.

FEWER TYPES

– Can we opt out of some of the 1000s

of different plastic types available on the market

in order to simplify recycling?

This pathway proposes and extensive redesign of the plastic system by simplifying the material flows. Different types of plastics are often mixed when collected for recycling. Variation in qualities and characteristics complicate the recycling processes. The pathway is dependent on key actors agreeing on principles and priorities to reduce the complexity of plastics.

Designer Interpretation:

A patchwork of different plastic granules (bio-based, recycled, fossil) to represent and highlight the thousands of various plastics that are circulating on the market. To regulate the amount of various types of plastic to less would make it much more 

 easier to recycle.

BIOBASED

– How can we get bio-based plastics

to seriously compete with oil-based plastics

to reduce our carbon footprint?

Biobased plastic form a pathway that promises a solution to the dependency on fossil feedstock and the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production of plastic. Biobased carbon - weather from agricultural plants, wood or captured as carbon dioxide - will in various ways be a key building block for plastics in a fossil- free future.

Designer Interpretation:

Bio-based plastic samples by STEPS researchers from various bio-based raw materials. Agar agar textiles and material samples by the designer. To show the potential of bio-based plastics.

 

BIODEGRADABLE

– Can biodegradable plastics be used for specific applications

to reduce the accumulation of plastic pollution

both on land and in the oceans?

The biodegradable pathway could be a better way of disposing of plastics that are complicated to collect and recycle at end of life, such as agricultural mulch film and fishing nets, whose biodegradability would enable the plastic to become part of the bio-waste and organic recycling streams. Biodegradable resources; it is often argued that the reuse and recycling of plastics should be prioritised over biodegradation.

 

Designer Interpretation: 

Cultures of microorganisms with potential to break down plastics made by the scientist in the program. More research is required in this field.

We need to broaden our conceptions of plastics, with all its challenges and opportunities, in order to shift perspectives on how we design, produce, apply and use the material. To rethink and re-evaluate to be able to reshape for a more sustainable future.

 

PHOTO CREDITS 

Kenneth Rouna 

 

SCIENTISTS/PRODUCERSTEPS

(Sustainable Plastics andTransition Pathways)

is a research programme with a vision of a future societyin which

plastics are sustainably produced usingbiobased raw materials which are usedand

recycledin a circular economy. The programme is coordinated by Lund University

and funded by Mistra,the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research.

www.steps-mistra.se 

 

PARTHNERS/SPONSORST

arkett | Rondo | General Plastic Scandinavia AB | HF Industri & Marine | Entropy Resins | VINK essåplast Group AB Form Design / Center: www.formdesigncenter.com

 

GRAPHIC DESIGN 

Daniel Christiansen

SPECIAL THANKS TO

Johanna Sjögren Duthy & Maria Viweg for input on the text,and Victor Modin & Isabelle Magnusson as internshelping out with the production of the exhibition.