One of the major themes in the spotlight at WDCD Live Amsterdam 2022 was the critical role that creatives can play in the shift towards a circular economy. Visitors saw this first-hand during the interactive portion of the programme, which included a live showcase of some of the best and brightest Dutch startups working to future-proof our products, systems and services. Those who preferred to learn by doing could join the Circular Design Jam, which challenged participants to work together on creative solutions that reimagine our local and global industries. If you missed it, here are a few highlights from the day, including exclusive videos featuring pitches by Dungse Labs, Waterweg and more.
CIRCULAR DESIGN JAM
Over the past few years, What Design Can Do has been working with research consultancy STBY in an effort to better understand design’s fraught relationship with waste. As part of this long-standing partnership, the Circular Design Jam invited festival-goers to prototype ideas for building a fair and circular society. ‘Circularity needs to happen through collaboration, inclusivity and a hands-on mentality, so we aimed for the session’s atmosphere to reflect this,’ explained STBY’s Dorota Gazy, who co-hosted the session alongside experts from WDCD and Ellen MacArthur Foundation. ‘As a starting point, we only utilised salvaged materials (e.g. reused cardboard and tote bags) to produce the workshop, and we designed it by combining Kate Raworth’s Donut Economy model with a fast-paced circular idea generator.’
Photos: Enrique Meesters.
Working in groups three or four, nearly seventy people from all over the globe spent the next two hours learning to apply circular economy strategies like co-ownership, repair and regeneration. Each group was assigned a specific industry and context to design for, like consumer goods in the Netherlands or food and agriculture in Mexico. For Dorota, the session came alive as soon as participants brought their local perspectives to the table and started seeing opportunities in places where there had been obstacles. ‘The highlight of the session was the diverse knowledge in the room. It is not often that people from such different fields and sectors sit down at a table together to creatively discuss and explore what issues we could overcome,’ she said.
At the end of the workshop, all groups were given the chance to present their ideas to each other. It was interesting to see that so many solutions were interrelated, aimed at rethinking how we value our resources and our labour. ‘We hope that people left the room with the sense that it is possible to make (small) meaningful steps with design and creativity, and that they feel more empowered than before to act and contribute,’ concluded Dorota. ‘As the designer Thomas Lommée once put it: the next big thing will be a lot of small things!’
To give a stage to circular design pioneers who are already making a difference in the real world, WDCD also invited ten forward-thinking startups to participate in the Pitch Podium. They each had a few minutes to present their groundbreaking innovations to a rapt audience and a panel of industry experts, including social designer Anna Noyons and Circle Economy lead Martijn Lopes Cardozo. After each presentation, the entrepreneurs and experts engaged in a live feedback session aimed at bringing their products to the next level. The afternoon ended on a lively note with the spectators leaving their seats and joining the others for an informal networking session on the yellow stage.
Human Material Loop
Human Material Loop is a provocative startup that researches humans themselves, questioning if and how we can see ourselves—and our hair—as a sustainable material of the future. Hair plays an important cultural, religious and political role in our lives. It’s also a unique biomaterial with a long list of positive attributes: it’s abundantly available, non-toxic, non-irritating, lightweight, insulating, flexible, oil-absorbing and strong. Human Material Loop asks: can human hair be a useful source material in product design? > watch pitch
Waterweg approaches climate adaptation with circular principles, working with plastic waste, plants and water storage. They produce a mix of local plastic waste, which would otherwise get burned or dumped, into large building blocks. From these blocks they build walls, filled with bio-substrate (fermented soil with lots of microorganisms) and an irrigation system based on rainwater. These walls become a home for plants, forming vertical green gardens. Each wall reuses tonnes of plastic waste, while reducing CO2-levels, fine dust and heat stress. > watch pitch
Claybens addresses a type of pollution that many people don’t even know exists: per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Since the 1950s, these so-called ‘forever chemicals’ have been used to manufacture everything from non-stick pans to umbrellas. Designer Emy Bensdorp leapt into action when she learned that harmful PFAS could be traced in up to 90% of Dutch soil. With Packing Up PFAS, she offers a unique clean-up solution whereby polluted clay is transformed into colourful bricks. > watch pitch
Shelduck believes that designers are the creators of the future. They determine how your environment looks, feels and how it is made. But this power comes with a responsibility: everything you design has an effect on the wellbeing of people and nature. All designers thrive on sustainability, but not all practice what they preach. Making sustainable choices can be quite hard, certainly when it comes to furniture. Shelduck’s unique production technique allows you to create your own bio-based furniture, for a competitive price. > watch pitch
Ecodam envisions a circular future based on new economic models. Products are no longer made, used and thrown away. Waste becomes valuable raw materials for new products. Services are shared rather than products being owned and consumed. The founders of this startup are convinced of the need to engage young people in these issues. By immersing young people into the world of the circular economy in a playful and practical way, this educational project strives to embed sustainability in their DNA. > watch pitch
Photos: Laura Ponchel.
Over 88 million tonnes of food is wasted annually in Europe, most of it before reaching our plates. Studio Narture (Gent, BE) wants to bring food waste back to the market and the people through co-creation and food innovation. Involving designers and users from the start of prototyping is part of Narture’s DNA. For its spinoff ROTMÓY, Studio Narture makes colourful pigments from fermented food scraps in order to dye fabrics more sustainably while keeping an eye on scale and quality. At WDCD’s Pitch Podium, founder Annabelle Cassiman presented the very first lingerie prototypes coloured using bread leftovers. > watch pitch
The Clothing Loop
Today, more people are buying more items of clothing than ever before. But as things become cheaper, they also become easier to throw away. The Clothing Loop (known in the Netherlands as Ketting Kledingruil) is a system for clothes-swapping which tackles this problem in an appealing and easy-to-use manner. It allows people to easily swap clothes with people in their neighbourhood through bags that travel along a certain route. In each ‘loop’, large bags of pre-loved clothing make their way through a neighbourhood of participants. The clothing loop is growing fast with more than 16,000 participants in the Netherlands and counting. > watch pitch
Reliving is the curated marketplace for used interior goods. Their mission is to end the polluting fast-furniture industry by making second-hand the standard. This way they hope to inspire people to rethink their behaviour. Reliving uses design and technology to take away barriers that generic marketplaces have, and give buyers an experience akin to buying something new. By offering solutions such as transportation, quality listings, a return policy and providing insight into how much CO2 is saved by buying second-hand, they hope to guide consumers into loving second-hand. > watch pitch
Falafval is on a mission to maximise taste and minimise waste. That’s why they make their delicious falafels from discarded vegetables and beans. ‘Since 2019 we have turned 2 tonnes of previously wasted food into tasty new products and we’re just getting started,’ they say. ‘We want to show everyone that sustainability and great food go together perfectly. Let’s change the world one bite at a time!’ > watch pitch
Dungse Labs is a material design and innovation company that designs and manufactures bio-based composite materials with cow-dung. Cow-dung out of all things because: it is produced in extensive surplus, it’s locally available around the world, it has abundant nutrients to nourish soil, and it has some exceptional properties like being light-weight and thermal insulation. Dungse Labs composites are 100% biodegradable and can be locally manufactured, even 3D printed, into any shape or form, making them fantastic substitutes for mined materials like wood and concrete. > watch pitch
Missed WDCD Live Amsterdam 2022? See more highlights from the festival here.
Top image: Laura Ponchel.