HOW CAN WE BETTER DESIGN COMPOSTABLE MATERIALS?
No matter how we dispose of it, most plastic ends up in bacteria-rich ecosystems like landfills, oceans, or road-side ditches. Traditional plastics damage these ecosystems, but we are moving towards a future where all single-use plastics could be made from renewable biomass sources such as wood chips or recycled food waste. These ‘bioplastics’ are capable of being composted by soil and marine bacteria.
A Place for Plastics is a collection of prototypes for bioplastic objects designed to quickly decompose in bacteria-rich environments. By maximising the surface area, more space is created for bacteria to interact, increasing the decomposition rate. Rather than damaging ecosystems, these products are designed to be destroyed by them.
We are currently transitioning from petroleum-based plastics to the emerging field of bioplastics. We can use science and design to help this transition run smoothly, and to prepare users and industry for the coming bioplastics future. Is a combination of human-centred and bacteria-centred design the best way to move forward?
ABOUT Megan Valanidas is a designer and researcher who was raised in a log cabin in a small community founded by plant pathologists. She holds a BA in studio arts and French linguistics from the University of Arizona and an MID in industrial and product design from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). Megan has been a sustainable futures instructor at RISD and James Madison University, where she has taught industrial design with a focus on research and speculative investigation. Megan was a featured speaker and exhibitor for Biodesign: From Inspiration to Integration. She presented on the topic of bioplastics and the environment for the Paris World Design Summit 2019. In addition, Megan has been a science and design educator, focusing on the circular economy of plastics and sustainable farming in extreme environments.
Image Credit: Megan Valanidas, Rachael MacArthur, Jen Spatz