Published 03rd December 2019 | Articles

A Future Without Plastic?

The last two years have seen a surge in innovative ideas to go plastic free, making the prospect of a plastic free world seem that bit more possible.

Here’s a round-up of our favourite design moments in the movement away from plastic from the past couple of years.

Plastic alternative made of fish waste

Lucy Hughes, product design graduate, won the national UK prize and then the international James Dyson Award for designing a fish-based plastic alternative.

She has since been awarded £30,000 to develop her invention, with the resulting material being a combination of fish by-products that would otherwise have contributed to the 172,000 tonnes of waste that end up in landfill each year.

The properties of fish scales and skins make for flexible materials and have strength-enabling proteins.

Hughes has said that: “The end goal is to bring the material to market and offer it as a viable alternative to single-use plastic films.”

“That said, this is just one potential usage of the material, and I look forward to undertaking more research and development to see how else the product could be employed.”

Water fountains in the capital

Let’s not forget Sadiq Khan’s initiative in the capital city to discourage the public from buying plastic bottles.

The mayor of London had 20 water fountains installed across the capital in a bid to make tap water more freely available, and to reduce plastic waste too. The initiative will be rolled out throughout the UK by 2021.

Whilst water fountains are certainly not an innovation, it goes to show that going back to basics can be an inexpensive solution to our plastic problem.

This idea is supported by Chris Sherwin, founder of Reboot Innovation, who argues that designers shouldn’t focus solely on recyclable materials for their products – but rather that we need systems to encourage the public to reuse and refill old containers.

So what is the future of plastic alternatives?

A group of Central Saint Martins students explored this very question as per a brief from Studio Into and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation charity.

They explored potential new materials, products, services and education programmes related to the future of plastics.

The students’ work was Featured projects, and gave an insight into what a plastic free world could eventually look like.

Products included coffee cups made from bamboo fibres, water-based vegetable packaging, refillable cosmetic bottles and waste picker drones.

In 2019, we’re seeing more refill stations and plastic-free alternatives emerge, and it will be interesting to see how these progress into the new decade.

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