Department of Design

Plastic 101

Everything you have wanted to know about plastic
Everything you have wanted to know about plastic

We began our research by diving into the core of the problems and frustrations that we face as designers and creators. We felt overwhelmed by the consumerist society that we live in, and the ignorance related to the environmental issues that our over consumption and vanity leads to. What can we do about this as designers, how are we supposed to create anything new to this world that is already drowning in man made products. A recurring theme in our discussions seemed to be plastic – this miraculous material that was once seen as a saviour of all problems, and today is found to be the culprit of the biggest issues the human society, and foremost, the planet we live in is facing.

Plastic is everywhere. It is in the products we use, the clothes we wear, the packages we consume and even in the food we eat. It is in us. And almost all the plastic that we have ever produced is still in this planet in some form. Developing countries are struggling with the plastic waste that western countries dump them, and marine animals around the planet are dying because they mistake the plastic particles drifting in the oceans as their prey. And still there are people happily consuming their single use plastic products completely oblivious about this catastrophic situation the world is already completely swallowed in. What needs to happen that we do not only wake up to this, but actually start reconsidering the choices we make and take action to stop plastic pollution? Putting an end to this destruction is all of our responsibility.

Microplastics in human and Bacteria attached to micro plastics

In our research we found that one of the biggest issues is the use of plastic in the packaging of food. It has revolutionized the whole food industry and enabled the human society to permanently defeat many diseases that were a result of poor preservation of food, but it has also nonetheless lead up to unsustainable use of natural resources and climate change. In one year every adult and child produces an average of 136 kilograms of single use plastic. If we keep consuming like this, the plastic waste that we have produced will either overtake and / or contaminate the environment we live in, in such a way, that there is no place in this planet for the humankind, not to even mention other living organisms, to exist anymore.

Plastic advertisements from 1930 to 1980s and 2010s

We consume plastic in almost all possible ways and it is no surprise that it is also inside of our bodies. We eat microplastics in our food, we absorb plastic through our skin from cosmetics and we drink the chemicals that have dissolved to our water from the plastic bottles we drink from. It seems that the ways plastic builds up into our bodies has not yet been researched much, and it is very alarming, considering that we live and breath plastic from all directions, and plastics are already known to have serious effects on the health of other living animals. Based on scientific researches we found and the specialist interviews we had, we were able to form an estimate of how much plastic goes through our bodies before the age of 30.

As a conclusion we wanted to gather all the knowledge we learned through the process and make it into something easily understandable. We decided to use the video format, since it can be spread through social media platforms, and people are nowadays often too busy and impatient to read a lot of information. The video presents the short history of plastic and it is aimed for everyone to raise awareness of how the development of plastic has changed the world.  

Besides the video, we also wanted to collect a little targeted list for designers to make them more aware of the different qualities and dilemmas related to certain types of plastics. Even though we cannot save the world alone, we as designers have the power to make a difference in the industry we work in, and be more aware of the effects of our decisions.

Fun facts for designers

By Atso-Kasper Costiander, Laura Meriluoto, Riikka Piippo, Milla Vainio

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