Plastic is fantastic…
origin Plastics was set up to consider the notion of circularity and indeed the shape and size of circular economies. We currently live in a largely linear system where products are designed for a lifespan of planned obsolescence. Plastic features heavily in this model and is discarded in large volumes with harmful impacts. Circular economies allow us to close the loop on a linear model and recycle and reuse items and materials that would otherwise be discarded in this way.
However, circular economies, in a similar way to manufacturing models across the globe tend to be centralised. As such, even when we recycle our materials, they can be shipped to centralised processing hubs which very often are international.
Centralised models can create high levels of carbon as materials are shipped for processing. Then they are shipped again as raw materials for use in new products elsewhere. And once more they are shipped to customers in the form of new products. Whilst it is fantastic to see a growing trend of circular practice in our national and global communities, it is also important to consider the impacts of the operational models currently in place.
origin Plastics is a project run by staff and students at Gray’s School of Art that considers the potential for micro-circular economies. As such, the aim is to place product design and production facilities right at the source of waste streams. In doing so, we are able to design new products that can be made from locally collected plastics that can be diverted away from landfill and/or centralised shipping.
In order to innovate around the challenges of scale, volume and cost in relation to working with plastics, we are working with a range of digital systems and tools to develop new products and reduce the cost and lead time to market. As such, we have been testing the use of 3D printed tooling which can cut traditional injection moulded tooling costs by up to 1000%. The lead times are much faster and yields test product in a matter of days. We also utilise a diverse range of 3D modelling and CNC machining to progress proven designs into soft tooling in Aluminium.
This approach provides a high level of flexibility and reactivity for the design team in developing new products in a cost effective and low-risk manner. In November 2020, we launched our first ‘micro-circular product’. The origin planter is made from plastics collected from local business’ such as Brewdog, and from individuals who wish to donate their own plastics to us. It is combined with a high-quality porcelain drip tray and is also supplied with either Basil or Wildflower seed paper to deliver a full product experience.
Post from Daniel Sutherland, June 2021