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I’m a plastic man …

… living in a plastic world, goes the song. Well it does feel like that sometimes. The inexorable march of polycarbonates and other plastics has been almost inexorable. They are everywhere: our phones, our clothes, our transport, computers, houses and home appliances … and of course our packaging. The benefits of plastics have been legion but this comes at a cost: as series like Blue Planet have highlighted, plastics are destroying out world even as they seem to offer so many solutions.

The role of plastics in encouraging a culture of disposability is a massive challenge – even walking down the often rubbish-strewn street in my neighbourhood the effects of that culture are visible. The consequences of plastic in our seas dwarfs that a thousand fold or more.

It’s hard not to feel powerless and resigned in the face of this massive problem that threatens our planet. But change is happening in some areas and I’m interested in how design can play its part in the solution. One recent example is contained in the linked article in Creative Review where UK based agency Made Thought have worked with Dutch retailers Ekoplaza to create plastic-free aisles in their stores. goo.gl/Jw7c43

It’s easy to be cynical: being ‘eco-friendly’ is so often nothing more than a marketing ploy whilst the fundamentals of a brand’s activity remains unchanged. Plus we’re only talking some aisles and the emphasis is on ‘choice’. This hardly ads up to the national/global action needed to remove plastic from all but the most essential items. Plus designers had a much bigger role to play in the design, construction and production of sustainable products from phones to transport to architecture. But ‘selling’ sustainability that reaches a wide audience and avoids, or at least supplements the culturally niche cliches of ‘eco design’ is something, and if we can challenge the mountain of plastic that our supermarkets use in wrapping products and win consumers to thinking about how they consume, helping build consent for essential accompanying legislation, that will be a start.


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