Not so long ago we started off our marvellous series on ‘where does design end’ with our very first event.
What is this series about? And how does design relate to waste?!
At Minimum Waste we firmly believe that design and waste are closely connected, particularly since the way a product is designed has a great influence upon its later trajectory when it is thrown away – will it be recycled? Will it be reusable? Or will it simply become new waste? And if so, how easily will it be processed? As you can see tons of questions can arise on this subject. That is why we decided to simply bring the designers to us and ask them exactly these and many more questions.
Our guest speaker for the first episode was Jan Čapek – one of today’s top Czech designers, known specifically for his PET bottle design for mineral water. Wait a minute – PET bottles?! But they are supposed to be public enemy no. 1! Quite correct – and that is why it was a golden opportunity for a critical discussion.
Adam Štěch, our host for this occasion, debated with Jan, amongst other things, whether it is even possible to produce a more environmentally-friendly PET bottle and what viable packaging-free alternatives of water exist today.
Designing bottles in a nutshell is, according to Jan, principally dependent on the client’s wishes – he needs to deliver a product that is in conformity to set technical and aesthetic demands. In other words, since he is mostly tasked to come up with a bottle that is robust, durable and original, he concentrates on these elements and rather neglects the ecological side of things. Nonetheless, a designer has still the possibility to create a more sustainable version, for instance, by using less material resources. One fine example of such work is Čapek’s newly designed bottle for Mattoni, which uses 25% less PET than the original bottle (of the same size!). Every effort counts right?
The end of a production cycle, in this case ‘what happens to a PET bottle after it gets thrown away’, was another hot topic in the debate and various forms of recycling and bottle-deposit schemes were discussed. Particularly the question of bottle-deposit schemes and its potential introduction in the Czech Republic ignited a heated debate on this matter, since society is divided on this question. What needs to be kept in mind in this respect, which was also mentioned by Jan, is that people tend to forget that PET bottles are valuable. When a bottle is connected however by a small refundable fee to a deposit scheme, its value in the eyes of the beholder rises. People get motivated to return PET bottles and think twice about how to dispose of their bottle. Countries that already have established bottle deposit schemes pride themselves with a high measure of returned bottles and cleaner streets and nature to boot – it is rare to see trashed bottles lying around on the ground. Nevertheless, naysayers highlight the strains the deposit scheme will have on the current infrastructure (purchase and operationalisation in stores) and also in hindsight to the ensuing transportation of the collected bottles.
An interesting turning point in the discussion was when the topic of ‘alternative uses for recycled PET bottles’ came up – for instance their use in designer furniture, clothes, etc. In this respect, a bold analysis was made: making products out of PET bottles or other kind of waste has nowadays become a neat marketing strategy, promising better branding and greater publicity. But if this is true, is the very nature of recycling thereby forsaken? You can be the judge of that.
Our discussion ended with the examination of viable alternatives allowing for drinking water zero-waste – public fountains and water refill stations, chic reusable water bottles or systems such as Grohe Blue (which we use for instance at Minimum Waste), with which you can drink sparkling, medium sparkling or still water straight from the tap, are just a few examples that we named.
In retrospect, we achieved exactly what we wanted with our debate: a critical discussion of the topic and gaining new interesting perspectives and thoughts (I hope you agree!).
We’re looking forward to our next event!