Design against the plastic soup - the effect of small product designs in sustainable design education

DS 94: Proceedings of the Design Society: 22nd International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED19)

Year: 2019
Editor: Wartzack, Sandro; Schleich, Benjamin; Gon
Author: Du Bois, Els; Van Gogh, Dirk; Veelaert, Lore; Van Doorsselaer, Karine
Series: ICED
Institution: University of Antwerp
Section: Responsible design
DOI number:
ISSN: 2220-4342


Plastics are ubiquitous in our daily life due to their versatile characteristics, however, these excellent characteristics also contributed to the emergence of a gigantic garbage of floating plastics in our ocean, called the plastic soup. Within this research project we investigated the opportunities by design to cope with this wicked problem. The hypothesis is that picking small opportunities in a wicked problem can have a large impact on the related ecosystem. In addition, we also wanted to investigate how design students would deal with the problem to create larger awareness of the designers' impact and responsibility. Although there is no ideal answer to a systemic problem such as the plastic soup, intervening on systems is possible. As the characteristics of a product directly influence the way the entire value chain works, designers have a large responsibility / opportunity to influence the system. An experiment was executed with 69 design students to explore the opportunities. The resulting design concepts were discussed by experts, reasoning towards relationships, needs to elaborate the design practices, and ecodesign education in a circular economy.

Keywords: Circular economy, Ecodesign, Design education, Plastic soup, Design impact


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