As a consumer society we are obsessed with plastic. It allows designers to make shapes that would otherwise very expensive and drive up product costs. A mere fraction of plastics used to make consumer products every gets recycled. And a mere fraction of that is turned back in to usable goods. While society has bought in to the idea that plastics should be separated in the home to be turned in to other products, it just isn’t happening at the same scale. What is the problem? Is there a crux point that would change this?
First off we need to recycle consumer products. This means that brands need to a) design the product in a way that can be split in to it’s raw parts and b) the consumer needs to have a viable outlet to get them back to the source.
Secondly, there must be demand for this recycled plastic. Currently there is no demand. In the place of demand are excuses. Designers don’t like the way it looks; it isn’t perfect. So instead the use of virgin material continues at the expense of the environment.
Thirdly, demand for truly toxic plastics, like PVC, continue. Long ago we stopped using it for food service goods, but it is still a key material in things like shrink labels for drinks, and inner trays within the retail boxes for consumer products. But those get thrown away, ending up in landfill and risking that toxic polymer to reach our ground water.
Recycling plastic isn’t free. It takes energy and chemicals to convert it back to source material. And with many polymers
We need to start creating demand for recycled plastics by getting designers to understand that it is cool to be friendly to the environment. Designers need to set aside their ego connected with pure aesthetics and pursue the higher goal of caring about the ramifications of the choices they make.
Today, I challenge all designers to start imagining the new possibilities of using recycled plastics in their product designs.