Summer Semester 2010,
UPCYCLING OF PLASTIC BAGS
How can I as a designer create an awareness to consume less?
How can I upgrade disposable materials through the use of design strategies? How can I directly influence the recycling process?
On average a plastic bag is used for about half an hour, in stark contrast to
the fact that the material it is made of will last up to 400 years. My approach to sustainability was to create products from disposable materials like plastic bags that would have a much longer life cycle than their original product. I did not aim to create a completely eco friendly product, but instead I used a widely available throw-away material as a starting point, that through my design input could be turned into an attractive and functional product thus contributing to the waste minimization.
To achieve my goal, I took an active part in the recycling process. I collected a variety of discarded plastic bags, cleaned them and cut them in a spiral manner into strings of up to 17 meters length. I obtained a material that I, using traditional textile-related methods such as knitting and crochet, could turn into a new fabric, which was partially finished in thermic processes.
The use of traditional needlework techniques is a major motive of the project.
It is not only about upgrading the cheap plastic bags by making use of them in an elaborate, manual way, but also about the fusion of opposites and the resulting perceptual irritation. The knitted patterns, which were used, evoke an association of handcrafted, high quality products, whereas the material states the opposite. From a distance the objects look familiar, but close to the touch, they reveal their unfamiliar features.
The connection to the original product (the plastic bag) stays palpable and visible at close range. The material not only becomes more stable, durable and versatile, but the process also broadens it‘s spectrum of expression: The original patterns shift, re-arrange and mix. It is possible to work systematically with selected colours or front and back surfaces while a whole array of new tactile attributes appear.
The transformation from worthless, wasteful material to a surprisingly attractive, new product, a durable designer bag, exemplifies the possibilities for a responsible and conscious interaction with our environment and it‘s resources and shows the possibilities of up-cycling strategies, “long life design” and sustainable concepts.