How refining old materials can enhance a circular economy
For the 17th time, the city of Eindhoven, the Netherlands, was entirely devoted to Dutch Design Week for nine days in a row. The biggest annual design event in Northern Europe since 1998, where over 2400 different designers present their work to the world.
As there are over eighty locations in the city where one can spot design we cannot tell you everything. Therefore we have chosen one of the locations, Het Klokgebouw. Where we could signalize an obvious theme that fits Future Flux’s vision perfectly, namely design for a circular economy, whereby old materials were being redefined for a more sustainable and eco-friendly use.
In our current world resources are getting more scare every single day, if we do not change our usage and therewith our behaviour drastically, resources will be totally used up within 40 years from now. According to Professor Jan Rotmans who is specialized in transition science, this ecological crisis regarding resources, energy and climate change is twice as extensive and impactful as our current economic crisis. Therefore it is essential that we redefine contemporary materials and therewith evolve new resources to spare existing ones in a circular system that is invigorated and renewed by design.
At the exhibition in Het Klokgebouw of Dutch Design Week we were happy to see that this issue is being addressed by several different designers, which means this matter is slowly gaining ground. We are evolving from a linear consumption economy, with a take-make-dispose attitude, into a circular economy which is a closed loop system.
For example the project Rethinking High Fashion Shoes by Kristel Peters, is a good illustration of a new basis of resources as she wants to approach shoe design from a totally new point of view, experimenting with new materials such as salmon skin, bacteria and mushroom leather. The project puts the responsibility on the designer to explore the best options regarding a zero waste high fashion shoe collection that could fit current circular attitude.
Redefining materials can also simply mean finding new means for existing resources, that is what Marten van Middelkoop did with linoleum in cooperation with Forbo Flooring b.v. The company which produces linoleum floors asked the product design students of Willem de Kooning academy to redefine their materials. That is when Marten developed SOLED, an interchangable linoleum sole that can simply be burried in the ground to turn into compost when the sole is worn out.
Lastly we saw Soft Blues by Sam Linders who is experimenting with Leather waste to give it a better destination that the waste incinerators. She uses the fiber that arise during the tanning of the leather as a resources for new products such as table wear or interior decoration. Her ultimate goal is to show the world that there is no such thing as waste and that we should use an entire product instead of just the obvious parts.
It should be clear by now that the design world is pushing this issue of scare resources to the forefront and answers to it with innovative and circular solutions that could reduce this harrowing problem.
Improvements of materials and product design are the heart of the circular economy on product level as this is the first visible improvement of the system. But the circular economy is not only a product based approach anymore, it is a system method as well. The observable switch between ownership and access-ship thrives this changing attitude towards a better world without the lost of economic growth.
So the next time you want to throw something away, you might want to think about what you can do with it that isn’t that obvious. How you can keep products, materials but also systems at their highest value even after they lost their original purpose.
* For more information or stats on Circular Economy check the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.