Wednesday, 4 March 2020

Reuse, Re-Think, Reduce

Plastics play an important role in human life. They have shaped and had an impact on culture and society, whilst enabling design solutions to problems. In recent years, there has been increasing concern regarding their impact on society, especially when they become waste. 

There are two distinct groups which plastics are divided into: thermosets which present themselves as plastics heated and moulded into a permanent set state, which cannot be recycled (re-melted and re-formed) and thermoplastics which can be recycled by melting and reforming, on more than one occasion. 

As humans we make choices in our daily lives about the plastic objects / products we use to support our way of living and to help us complete tasks. How often do we think about the choices we make at home, work or whilst studying and their impact on society? 

The University is running a programme as part of its AUB Human initiative and here at MoDiP we are taking the opportunity to highlight objects in the collection to inspire students, staff and visitors to think about sustainability, adaptability, creative practice, and a regenerative society - through design in plastics. We are doing this via an exhibition, New Narratives in plastics on display in the tank cases on the first floor of the library and by discussing the topic of sustainability in this post and on our website.

What does sustainability mean to you?  

Do you think about the environment when designing products or developing concepts / ideas?

Today, we see a change in society with industry re-thinking by making ethical and sustainable choices during designing and production.  We now see products made of plastics that can be reused or recycled, demonstrating that plastics are materials that should be valued and not so easily discarded.

Unwanted electrical equipment is the world’s fastest growing type of e-waste. The exhibition displays an example of designers re-thinking when developing a product by looking at a modular headphone by Dorus Galama and Tom Leenders, from Gerrard Street.  With this product, you, as the consumer, do not own the headphones but acquire them through a subscription service. The headphones are delivered to you via the post and you assemble them.  The great thing that sets these headphones apart from others on the market is that parts can be replaced or upgraded if required, for free by sending the parts back to the company. They then reuse or recycle 80% of this e-waste. Gerrard Street are adaptive in their approach to product design, thinking about how the product itself can help reduce its own impact on society.

What adaptive choices do you make in everyday life?

Do you re-use things or throw them away after one single use?

Do you think about what happens to your object / product once it becomes obsolete?

Many products are made of plastics which have a single use such as milk bottles. Once the milk is finished the bottle is obsolete. We have an example in the collection of a milk bottle from the Tesco Healthy Eating range which is blow moulded from high density polyethylene, which can recycled once the milk has been used. 

Green Toys Inc. are an eco-friendly toy company who make 100% recycled toys. As part of their DNA they are committed to sustainability and playfulness in the products that they produce. Their products are made primarily from milk bottles with other recycled products used at times, such as yogurt pots.  The milk bottles they use are 100% post-consumer recycled high-density polyethylene (HDPE). Some of their products have components made from recycled polypropylene (PP) or recycled low-density polyethylene (LDPE). This is a great example of a company reusing an object once its function is obsolete, melting the materials to make new products, helping to reduce the amount which will end up at landfills. we have a set of building blocks, made by Green Toys Inc,  which comprises five different shapes and four colours, red, orange, blue and yellow. They are designed for young children of six months and over and are marketed as 'My first green toys'.

This hand-woven blanket, has a blue and white diamond design. It was made in 2018 by Weaver Green from approximately 300 recycled PET bottles. The company are based in Devon and make rugs and textiles from discarded plastic bottles. They have spent seven years working on turning hard plastic into fibres to ensure they have the look and feel of wool, along with being machine washable, stain resistant and environmentally friendly. They are embracing the notion of reusing, re-thinking and reducing by considering their impact on society with their choice of materials.

Have you been inspired to think about your use of plastics?
How could you reuse, re-think or reduce?

Sarah Jane Stevens
Museum Engagement Officer

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