Zero Waste Design

Posted by Flux on 

12 November 2012

What’s trending now?

Zero waste design is the trending environmental phrase for 2012. Being eco-friendly nowadays extends beyond purchasing organic products and recycling wastes. In reprieving the rising landfill, designers are re-examining the initial phase of design and taking on responsibility to incorporate elements of sustainability as means to an end. The aggregate aim is to eliminate subsequent material waste from going to a landfill at the end of its life cycle.

The concept dates to antiquity, as evident in Japanese kimonos and Indian saris where the preservation of the fabric artistry was a necessity. The modern challenge is to eliminate waste at design stage while maintaining contemporary aesthetics.

Why it’s important?

The finality of every product cycle ends in landfill – the accumulation of all non-recyclable wastes. The alarming incremental rise of the waste silhouette is imminent and definitive. Since not all materials are combustible and waste products are produced at an unprecedented rate, the world’s landfill coverage is on an irrepressible elevation. Adverse effects of these lands include Methane gas release; contamination of underground water; as well as the obvious manifestation of rats and flies that incubate diseases.

Proposed solution to landfills such as land reclamation draws concern of soil liquefaction in times of earthquakes and the issue of land subsidence persists.

Whilst the practice of recycling re-engineers waste material into renewed products, at the end of its added life cycle, its final journey lies in destination landfill. We realized over the years that recycling alone is not enough and that on a scale of waste management hierarchy, prevention ranks supreme.

What’s the butterfly effect?

With continual rise of petroleum and raw material prices and the incremental pressure on cost and scarcity of landfill permit, adaptation to embracing sustainable design is becoming a worthwhile investment. Being environmentally friendly for the purpose of pure altruism or social obligation is a thing of the past. Although the derivative green benefits does serve to sate increasing consumer concerns.

We are also witnessing a paradigm shift as accountabilities are deferred to the individual level. This is extant in the cost of sustainable negligence. Plastic grocery bags are no longer free, infrequent waste removal requires savvy household waste management, and coffee consumers are rewarded for bringing their own mugs. Being environmentally friendly is becoming a necessity in household cost management and we see a demand for zero waste design products on the rise.

The Pioneers

Apparel  – In wake of the staggering 15% average leftover cutting by the apparel industry, a surge of zero waste paper pattern designers have emerged. Mark Liu and Holly McQuillan are amongst the designers who challenge themselves to use fabric in its entirety, drawing inspiration from origami and design masters Margiela and Miyake. On a larger commercial scale, Loomstate, known for its organic efforts, just launched its first zero waste patterned anorak . Retailers like American Apparel showcases another form of achieving zero waste by using its excess material in the creation of accessories and under garments

PackagingWikiCell Designs Inc  is developing edible and biodegradable food packaging materials with product release date scheduled for 2013. The malleable packaging made of nutritional food particles envelops the food in either solid or liquid form in a fruit-like fashion – washable and edible. Consumer has the option to eat it or compost it as it is completely biodegradable. In the final stages of the design roll out, WikiCell aims to provide DIY home packaging for individuals to take plastic completely out of the equation and fully embrace a zero waste lifestyle.

The global hotspots

Australia and New Zealand are hotspots leading the zero waste design and lifestyle trend. The most prolific zero waste designers are of Australian origin. Top American design schools such as Parsons and F.I.T are also leading the way in launching sustainability design course in fashion and packaging respectively.

By: Carol Lin

About Carol

Born into the world of fashion retail, Carol is an aficionado of all things in vogue. The cat-feeding, online-shopping, TED enthusiast is often spotted checking-in, instagramming and obsessively pinning. A decade of retail industry experience from commercial to luxury provides an insiders zeitgeist. And her consuming Fear of Missing Out keeps her in check of all real time up to date trends.

Image credit: The World Wide Web

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