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Sustainability

Can plastic ever be celebrated?

plastic waste in ocean

Can plastic ever be celebrated?

 Spoiler: the answer is no.

While it’s difficult to deny the positive impact of plastic in certain sectors and scenarios, particularly in science and healthcare, it’s also indefensible to ignore the damage it now wreaks on the planet, particularly ocean and marine life.

Every day we create new innovations, new materials – it’s time we replace plastic.

While the message around plastic and the detrimental impact it has on our planet is spreading, not enough is being done, and it isn’t being done quickly enough.

Yet it’s positive to see discussions taking place in the forums that stand a chance of making a difference.

London Design Festival spotlights plastic

The London Design Festival is one such forum.

This year’s event tackled the controversial topic of plastic by making it 2018 Material of the Year. It acknowledged its status as the world’s most loathed material and shone a spotlight on the ways recycled plastic can be re-used.

At Aztec, we’re passionate about sustainability and are committed to both operating an eco- friendly business and delivering sustainable fit-out projects, working with suppliers and partners who share the same values. So, when we heard that LDF had chosen plastic as its Material of the Year, we were skeptical.

Should the use of plastic ever be encouraged?

London Design Festival says, “Truly the material of the modern world, plastic has proved revolutionary in the way in which we live, by allowing lighter, thinner, more durable and at times more beautiful objects. From wafer thin computer hardware to vital advances in medical tools, plastic has proved a material hero in many ways. Although it screams innovation, technology and ease, it is one that rings of disposability and a throw-away culture.”

Several designers exhibited their recycled plastic creations during the festival; Kodai Iwamoto transformed piping into sculptural vases akin to ceramics, Weez & Merl showed off their marble-effect tabletops and coasters which are, unbelievably, created from plastic bags. Dirk Vander Kooij showed his innovative method to sculpt everyday discarded plastic objects into furniture, while Charlotte Kidger explored the use of polyurethane foam dust to create a range of homewares.

By shining a light on plastic and the opportunity to create beautiful, innovative objects from recycled plastic, London Design Festival has delivered an important message.

Recycling plastic is only part of the battle

Here’s the thing – by recycling plastic we’re merely kicking the can down the road. At some stage, the newly created product will end up in landfill. While we should absolutely encourage the recycling of plastic, we should also focus on better ways to eradicate it completely.

For example, there are several little-known chemicals being produced which will break down plastic completely, avoiding waste ending up in landfill or, worse, the ocean.

But we must deal with plastics at source.

Eliminating plastic – responsible business

We should eliminate our use of single-use plastic with a view to completely eradicating it as an available material. We invest huge sums of money in developing new materials, and more time and attention should be focused on that area – what are the alternatives that are kind to the environment and don’t merely replace plastic with paper?

The responsibility for this lies with business.

Workplace design and influencing behaviour

Many believe plastic and its misuse to be a design issue, yet, whatever the cause, the onus is on everyone to do their bit to reduce the vast quantities of plastic we consume. As OnOffice magazine made clear in its latest issue, office design and fit-out has a large role to play in leading the way, specifying more environmentally friendly design, furniture and fittings.

The options are numerous – office flooring made from recycled plastic, furniture created from more sustainable alternatives, and measures to support employees in limiting their reliance on plastic.

We have seating fabrics, roof tiles and many other products made from recycled plastic bottles. There are even concepts to recycle plastic for road surfaces.

Education is vital in solving the issue

There is also an education job to be done – how many companies are aware of available R&D tax relief for the development of new products and solutions? More information is available online for those interested – https://www.gov.uk/guidance/corporation-tax-research-and-development-rd-relief

Education will play a huge part in our success in dealing with plastic –  it’s an education that must start early in primary school, teaching youngsters of the dangers of plastic and encouraging better habits that protect the environment.

We must all play our part – what can you do?

Aztec benefits from more than 30 years’ experience delivering office fit-out and refurbishment projects – if you’re interested in learning more about designing a sustainable office, feel free to get in touch on 0151 255 0850.

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