In a world of consumerism and mass-production, our waste levels have sky-rocketed over the past 50 years. And, with the time to fight climate change rapidly slipping away, many designers are reshaping current linear production models to more circular and resourceful alternatives. Purpose-driven craft and design writer, Katie Treggiden, explores the issue in her latest book Wasted: When Trash Becomes Treasure. Examining the rise of waste in a variety of industries, and how innovators and creatives are shedding a fresh light on discarded materials, the book presents solutions which could disrupt the manufacturing world towards a positive and considered future.
After becoming a journalist in 2010 following a 12-year career in marketing and advertising, Treggiden recently graduated at the University of Oxford where she undertook a Master’s Degree in the History of Design. It was during this period that she felt compelled to investigate the positive influence craft and design has on a wider scale, especially its role in the creation of a sustainable future. Now, after receiving a distinction and producing papers on bio-facture, repair and the plastic crisis, she is one of many creatives seeking to bring a renewed purpose to the industry.
In 2018, the World Bank stated that if no urgent action took place our global waste levels could increase by 70% in the next 30 years highlighting the critical need for change. The severity of this current crisis is also outlined in the book’s introduction, alerting readers to facts that we may have forgotten, or ignored, including how we use 1.5 planets’ worth of resources every year and that the Great Pacific garbage patch now has a total surface area estimated at 1.6 million square kilometres. These statistics are intended to shock us, and rightly so, as we as consumers can also have a huge impact on the way we operate as a society and these actions go hand-in-hand with that of the industries serving us.
Treggiden has published four titles prior to this new addition, as well as creating an award-winning blog and contributing to renowned publications such as The Guardian, Elle Decoration and Monocle 24. In this new book, published by Ludion, Treggiden alludes to the possibilities of working with waste and how it is becoming the raw material of the future. Featuring 30 design studios, makers and manufacturers, the visually compelling stories portray different forms and results taking shape, from visionaries looking to bring new perspectives to substances destined for landfill. Including a foreword by Brooklyn-based curator, Glenn Adamson, the book’s introduction also draws on Treggiden’s personal experiences with waste, growing up in the UK’s rural Cornish countryside. Phrasing it as ‘the mother of all environmental problems’, she discusses not only the scale and horror of the current waste issue, but simultaneously presents a positive way forward.
Split into five chapters: Domestic, Industrial, Fashion, Food and Plastic Waste, the book looks at a wealth of innovation including the colourful designs of Yinka Ilori, who transforms broken chairs, a lighting collection by Highsociety Studio, made using by-products of beer and coffee production, and the work of James Shaw whose functional art pieces are crafted from post-consumer plastic waste. “While the projects featured may not offer the entire solution to this colossal problem, what they might do, together with the essays that accompany them, is present a different perspective,” comments Treggiden as she discusses her motivation in creating this body of work. “If they can inspire us to think a little differently, perhaps we can move towards a thriving circular economy that fulfils the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations.”
So, in adopting this mindset, which is discussed in Treggiden’s documentation, it could herald the beginning of the circular economy we are working hard to achieve. Raising awareness of these solutions is the first step in showcasing the opportunities which are currently available, emphasising how we all have a responsibility to change the way we consume, create and live.
While this in no way negates the need to eliminate single use materials, and the urgency to choose reusables where we can, it does show the power craft and design can have in tackling a global issue such as this. Looking forward towards what we hope will become a waste-free future, Treggiden feels positive. “There is hope in the solutions proposed by a new generation of optimistic designers and makers,” She states before concluding. “Indeed, they are perhaps the only hope we have.”
Wasted: When Trash Becomes Treasure is available from 8th October 2020 and can be pre-ordered here.