Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

Using Plastic (and Design) to Reduce Waste

No doubt we all hear a lot about reducing waste. But how about using plastics to reduce waste and conserve valuable resources?

Recently I was reading an interesting story about how the German sports lifestyle company PUMA finished a 21 month project to redesign a shoebox.  The time frame appears awfully long to revamp a shoebox, but the results seem worth it.  Puma’s “Clever Little Bag,” was unveiled at a recent press conference at the UK’s Design Museum in London.  The bag itself is made of recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET) which encases a single sheet of ink-free recycled cardboard.  The plan is for bags to be made available in the second half of 2011, and PUMA will encourage customers to reuse the bag and recycle the cardboard.

The new design (which entails both form and fashion) aims to cut paper usage by 65%.  As a result of the paper reduction, PUMA will reduce water, energy and diesel consumption on the manufacturing level by more than 60% per year.  In other words: approximately 8,500 tons less paper will be consumed, 20 million megajoules of electricity saved, 1 million liters less of fuel oil used and 1 million liters of water saved. In addition, during transport 500,000 liters of diesel is saved.  These stats are pretty impressive.

The new packaging system was designed for PUMA by industrial designer Yves Behar, the Swiss-born founder of the San Francisco design studio, fuseproject, and creator of the jawbone bluetooth headphone and One Laptop Per Child computer.  According to Behar the new bag will protects each pair of shoes from damage from the point it leaves the factory until the consumer takes it home — thus generating savings on the production side due to less material used, reducing weight during transport and eliminating the need for extra carrier bags.

The bag, and an earlier prototype, are currently on display as part of the Design Museum’s new exhibition entitled “Sustainable Futures — Can design make a difference?“  Interesting question.  Based on what I’m seeing here, design can make a difference and plastics continue to be a part of a sustainable future.

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