Beginning With the End in Mind

As sustainability and climate change continue to present a growing threat to our societies, how can we go beyond traditional waste management practices and design new solutions that tackle problems spaces at the start rather than the end of the product lifecycle?


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In spite of knowing the detriments of plastic, a problem that continues to persist is the purchase of products that are packaged in non recyclable and non reusable materials.

Dutch design student Miriam de Brujn came up with an alternative solution, exploring household products, particularly creams, shampoo, detergent, cleaning supplies etc.

Having realised that all these products are made from 80% water, Brujn decided to distill the products to produce solid forms. The result is a series of solid products titled Twenty, which once purchased can be put in a reusable bottle with water to create the final product solution. In addition to tackling waste from plastic packaging, the dramatic decrease in the space and size of products reduces transport and CO2 emissions. 


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Physical human waste is often overlooked as a big problem. However the basic necessity of a toilet presents a huge challenge in natural disaster zones as well as many remote communities. And with poor hygiene, individuals in these situations are more prone to diseases and infections.

Japanese design firm Nendo has redesigned the toilet for disaster relief, calling it the Minimlet. The Minimlet presents a compact kits made up of a few parts, a seat, a collapsible aluminium pole, nylon drop cloth, tissue and plastic bags. In addition to the provided aluminium support base, the design allows for readily available products such as plastic water bottles or aluminium cans to be used. The aluminium supports can then be made into a pole to which an umbrella and cloth can be attached, creating a private space for the user.

The entire design of Minimlet allows for easy portability and management, tackling the logistic challenges around traditional portable toilets in times of disaster. 


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Fashion is an incredibly big waste problem that has been in the spotlight in recent times. Whilst there are many challenges within this space; from unethical practices to poor quality products, a large problem area is actually behaviour of consumption itself.   

Ryan Mario Yasin, a master student of the Royal College of Art’s Innovation Design Engineering programme, has sought to deal with this issue of consumption by looking specifically at the audience of kids.

When it comes to kids, the need to purchase new clothes is largely driven by the simple fact that they grow. Yasin’s project Petit Pli uses the technique of creating a set of permanent folds that ‘unpack’ as they are pulled and therefore grow with the child over time. Designed as windproof and waterproof outerwear, the collection fits children from six to thirty six months, a time period in which some kids go through six clothing sizes. By providing a long term adaptable clothing item, Yasin presents a path for driving less consumption. 


So What?

For a long time waste management strategies have focused on dealing with waste that has already been created. However there has been a recent shift with individuals and organisations beginning to address the behaviours and mindsets that enable waste to be created in the first place. How could these emerging models be expanded, presenting non-traditional avenues for dealing with different types of waste by addressing the root cause and the source over the final outcome?