This week, What Design Can Do will host the No Waste Student Lab at innovation hub Spring House Amsterdam, joining design students from across the Netherlands, including HKU University of the Arts Utrecht and DAE Design Academy Eindhoven. In line with next month’s No Waste Lab, the student lab will follow a similar explorative route in which the relationship between waste and consumerism will be questioned through a design perspective. Challenging fresh minds with mapping the future of Amsterdam in its goal to become completely circular by 2050. 

In preparation for No Waste Student Lab, it’s important to examine how young designers have begun to tackle this critical issue; from bikes made from recycled plastic, to repurposed textile waste, to home-grown BioLabs. To convert the perspectives of consumers alike, we need to present real solutions that show this change is possible, and attractive. Below, we’ve compiled a list of projects that do exactly this. 


At this years During Dutch Design Week, the opportunity to see how young designers are employing their talents in the search for waste-free solutions was presented through a vast number of exhibitions. The Biomaterials Archive, curated by Ana Lisa and her students from Design Academy Eindhoven (DAE), showcased a range of multisensory artifacts and objects that explored the possibility of BioDesign objects. The range of materials were daring, resourceful and interactive; with alternatives to plastic, leather, marble, cotton, and MDF – to name a few. Included was a long table of materials that students from DAE had been working on.

These were the results of what one student described as a “series of ‘BioLabs’ that began to appear in students’ kitchens, as we began experimenting with anything we could find”. Guests were invited to pick up, smell and touch the objects to get a feel for the diverse tangibility of each material. One material, created from what looked to be mud or earth, had been exposed to an extremely high temperature. The result looked like a dense metal, but was featherlight to the touch. Experiences like these demonstrate just how quickly our perceptions of such objects can be changed.

Other works exhibited at the Biomaterials Archive included furniture and accessories made from egg cartons and woodchips, lamps made from salt, and dishes made from recycled plastic. There was even a selection of works and materials made at WDCD speaker Dave Hakkens’ precious plastic workshop. 


Also present at DDW 2019 was Daniëlle Ooms. A recent graduate from TU/e, Ooms took the unconventional source of apples to create her self-initiated project: Apple-based Material, a completely biodegradable leather alternative. The project is an attempt to show not only the possibility of sustainable and circular fashion, but also to challenge our conceptions of what aesthetic and tactile qualities we deem desirable in everyday garments.


Hard Selvedges, a collaboration between 2016 DAE graduate Wendy Andreu and leading fabric manufacturer Sunbrella, was another feature at this year’s dutch design week. The installation showcases how Sunbrella’s waste can be repurposed into functional and appealing alternatives. Andreu recognised that the water repellent resin coating in Sunbrella’s materials did not meet their sustainability goals. The coating can not be recycled, which results in the waste being burnt. Andreu combines the discarded fibres with water-based, solvent-free acrylic resin, resulting in a new composite material that can be poured into moulds, cover pre-existing shapes, or mix with other materials to create new textures.


In his 2018 final masters graduation project at DAE, Marco Federico Cagnoni explored what different materials could be used to produce bioplastics like PLA. Typically, foods like rice, potatoes and corn are used – but to Cagnoni this seemed counterproductive, considering how much of earth’s population are living in food poverty. Why use food to create bioplastics, when you can use one plant to create both? The research explored dandelion, chicory and salsify in lieu of these staple foods. The project sets a design for a vertical bioplastic farm, owned collectively by local residents. This way bioplastics and food can be produced more easily, bringing automation, technology, nutrition and income closer to home.


Another recent graduate from DAE, Lucille Nguyen’s 2018 project sought to tackle fast-fashion and the throwaway culture of sneakers. Increasingly, more and more cheaply produced and short-lived shoes are being made, leading to excess waste and production. Nguyen wanted to change this cycle in her modular shoe design, UP-PART. Each shoe is sold with separate soles and upper layers, meaning they can be easily replaced – reducing waste. Every section of the shoe can also be taken apart, making it very simple to recycle.


Charlotte Cazals‘ textiles are made of 100% recycled fibres and can be used in the home for any interior applications, such as upholstered fabrics, wall hangings and blankets. The work, created for her graduation show at DAE 2018, challenges the damaging effects of the textile industry – the second most polluting industry in the world. Typically, end-of-life textiles are shredded and repurposed as materials of low value, like carpet liners or insulation. By crafting her textiles, she is able to showcase their aesthetic appeal, and highlight the potential longevity of materials otherwise disregarded.


In a similar vein to the motives of Cazals, Sarah Brunnhuber saw the amount of waste produced from the textile industry as something that needed to change. In her 2018 graduation project at DAE, the work ‘Weave (k)not Waste’ sought to create a minimal waste garment production technique. Weaving pattern shapes directly eliminates cutting waste, and knotting each piece together eliminates sewing waste: tackling the issue head-on from production level, and introducing new methods of garment development. 


Traditionally, manure has been used widely across the globe for building structures – so why not use it to build furniture? That’s what drove Martijn Straatman to create his graduation piece ‘Manureality’, a series of storing stable equipment made from horse manure. After researching traditional methods, Straatman set out to create his structures. Using 80% manure, the work serves as an example of what is possible from simple materials, aimed to inspire the industry at whole.


Thomas Hoogwerf looked directly at the possibility of creating a bike entirely from plastic waste in Mexico City. Considering the 21 people million living there – there’s plenty of plastic to harvest. Bikes are already a clean way of getting around the city, but Hoogwerf takes it one step further by repurposing the city’s waste plastic into clean transport for its citizens. The bikes are designed to be easily assembled, with removable and replaceable parts for quick mends and fixes. The design is open source, and can be found on wikipedia for anyone to use!


Eef Beusen created a festival tent made from entirely recycled plastic. Huge numbers of tents, litter and plastic are abandoned at festivals each year. This 2018 graduation project raises the question of how environmentally damaging festivals truly are. The tent itself is recyclable, easy to assemble, quick to set up and can be used multiple times. The tents will be pre-assembled and rentable for festival-goers, thus removing the stress and hassle of bringing a tent and having to set it up. Once the festival is over, users leave the tents to be returned to the site. In this sense – the camping experience is completely circular.

What can we expect from No Waste student lab? If these examples are any indication, it’s that young designers are making strides towards waste free solutions, and have no intention of slowing down. Here’s to the next generation of circular design – keep an eye out for the day’s updates, and an event digest coming soon! Want to learn more about What Design Can Do Radical Collaboration Labs? Get involved here.

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