October 28, 2019 / Technology

Reimagining Waste

Sustainability is continuing to shake industries, with designers becoming hyper-aware of the life cycle of an entire product. From conception to design to the disposal, brands are re-evaluating how products are made. Making sure suppliers ethically source materials, energy consumption is renewable, transportation is minimal, by-products are reused and disposal is decomposable, are just some of the ways brands are evaluating the eco-revolution.

One way that designers, artists and brands have been looking at creating a more sustainable world is by exploring the longevity of a product. In retail, there have been major developments in refillable and reusable concepts, trialling in both Waitrose and The Body Shop. To help eliminate single-use packaging, stores are considering consumer attitudes, looking to conclude whether these new concepts will take hold.

Investing in innovation is imperative.

David Albert

Founder of AAII and marine biologist, David Albert, recently spoke at a panel on the importance of decomposable packaging – a challenge for the beauty industry that mainly sells liquid-based products. Suggesting that further research should take place, he argued, “Investing in innovation is imperative. What we need does not yet exist, we should be supplying researchers with the means to make sure there is a future for the beauty industry”.

Reuse, repair and resale are also skyrocketing, with artisans and makers in demand to help restore products to modernised health. Whether it’s complete revamp of a vintage item or a repair job, brands like ThredUp and Depop are gaining popularity, creating a rise in small businesses and creatives to put their spin on old items – and all in the name of saving the planet.

Luxury stores Harvey Nichols and Selfridges, as well as high street stores H&M and GAP, have begun implementing in-store repair stations, often free on products that are from the brand, in an effort to increase the longevity of items.

At a recent talk on Restoration, key makers were worried about the demand, as restoration professionals have seemingly declined. Noting the need for skilled craftsmen in creating a sustainable future, he urged people to consider unconventional artisan jobs, observing access, understanding and education around the arts.

In the design sphere, artists are utilising used materials. Transforming old building materials, designer Paul Cocksedge created a sculpture that featured three circular boardwalks that rose up and down in waves, allowing visitors to walk through archways at the high-points and sit at the low points. One of the most talked-about installations at London Design Festival, it emphasised how artists and designers can seemingly use materials more sustainably.

Looking for unconventional ways of recycling waste and by-products will be the future. From cruise liners creating bio-fuel from farming by-products to New York’s Cosmopak USA featuring a full range of paper-like packaging made from 60% agricultural by-products like corn husks, upcycling is supporting innovation and understanding, while also generating profit for companies.

Key Insights

  • The pressure to become more sustainable is not going away. Brands should be investing in innovations that could change the future of waste and also generate profit.
  • The government should look at investing in creating opportunities and education in industries like repair and restoration to help the longevity of products and decrease waste.
  • Retailers should use creative ways to help consumers engage with recycling, restoration and reuse as a way to draw people into stores on a regular basis.

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