Design a new solution from scratch, - compared to the old way of solving the problem, your solution changes something disposable to reusable, lasts longer, or is easier to disassemble for repair and recycling.
Has the way a problem is currently solved with a plastic product bugged you? Are you constantly saying, “I could design that better”? We are giving you the chance to remake a plastic design solution! As a design student, your understanding of the form, function, and aesthetics of plastic objects is crucial to helping remake them. Since you’re our most creative of challengers, we’re not going to tell you what kind of object to redesign—we’d like you to select any everyday plastic object to rethink and remake.
For instance, plastic straws have started to gain a notorious reputation. Their properties make recycling straws impractical, creating unnecessary waste. Fueled by negative public opinion, coffee shops began seeking alternatives. Commercial businesses have started offering a redesigned lid for cold coffee takeaway cups. This simple design revision to the standard "cup-lid-straw" obviates the need for straws, making the entire cup recyclable.
Here are a few strategies you might employ in your redesign:
- Increase longevity: There are multiple ways to make an object last longer. You could design out existing flaws, so the object doesn’t break as easily in predictable ways—like a stemless wineglass. You could strengthen certain areas of a canonical design to improve durability—like a bicycle inner tube with a better valve. Or, you could improve its design so that product wear is aesthetically neutral, or even positive. For example, clear plastic that gets scratched is more likely to be tossed than colored plastic; or, certain leathers and woods show “character” as they wear, can that effect be achieved with clever plastic designs?
- Reusability: There is a many-fold impact reduction if you can redesign a disposable object to be reusable, even if it can be reused just a few times before it’s recycled. Make sure you think through design cues that alert the user that it’s a reusable object, rather than a disposable one. For example, Preserve found that users were much more likely to wash and reuse a plate once it crossed a certain threshold of thickness—even though a thinner plate might have had sufficient durability to be reused.
- Design for disassembly/recyclability: Many plastic objects are made of different materials joined together, and can’t be recycled at the end of life if these materials can’t be separated. If you can redesign your object to easily be separated into individually recyclable materials, you can improve its rates of recycling. For example, make use of reversible fasteners over adhesives. And make sure you include design cues to make its disassembly intuitive!
Remember that social and environmental impact is one of the judging criteria, so make sure to select an object that has enough volume to transform lives, economics, and/or ecological ecosystems.