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"plastic" Tag


a plastic world


Sunday, February 18, 2018

When you look around in the modern world, the plastic materials by which it is formed are inevitable to the eye.
From everyday objects like the interior of households and infrastructural facilities to the sex industry and medical surgery, synthetics have become a big part of humans and the human/animal world.
But how did this came to be and what will the future be of this plastic world with its benefits and downsides.

 

alexander farkefarkesine

(left- Alexander Parkes, right- Parkesine objects ) 

 

Before plastic became fully synthetic in the way we know it nowadays, cellulose found in plants was the base material for the discovery of modern plastics.
This discovery was made in 1862 by Alexander Parkes who invented the material he named “Parkesine“.
Parkesine was made from in alcohol dissolved nitrocellulose mixed with oil or camphor wax which created a transparent, moldable material which maintained shape after cooling down.
Therefore it was used to make things like combs, stamps, and buttons.
The American brothers Hyatt picked-up this idea and created a variation of this Parkesine in 1869 they named celluloid by pulverizing camphor an nitrocellulose separately, adding pigments to the nitrocellulose, after mixing it was pressurized to remove water and then molded with extreme heat.
It was used as a replacement for ivory, specifically ivory billiard balls.
Celluloid became a great success and eventually made it possible for the film industry to be born.

 

celluloid film   bakelite factory

(left-celluloid film, right-bakelite factory)

 

These two inventions can be seen as the ancestors of the modern plastic society, nevertheless, it only came to be because of the first fully synthetic plastic, meaning no molecules that can be found in nature are used.
This first fully synthetic plastic was called Bakelite.
Invented in 1907 in the USA by Leo Baekeland in the search for a synthetic insulator, he found a way to control the condensation reaction of a phenol-formaldehyde mixture and stop this reaction while remaining liquid.
This could be formed into different stages with stage A, the first stage, directly making it into usable plastic.
Stage B, making it into a solid state with the possibility to make it into powder and soften it with heat.
Stage C is where stage A or B are being heated under pressure and the result of this is what he called Bakelite.
Bakelite appeared to be a perfectly suited material for the purpose of insulation as it was heat resistant and could be manufactured in mass-production as it could be molded quickly.

This last fact and the fact that it was fully synthetic opened the doors to a world of mass-produced synthetics, the plastic world we live in.
Soon new materials followed this creation with the invention of polystyrene in 1929 (used for electronics like refrigerators, microwaves and tv, medical equipment and packaging), polyester in 1930 (used for clothing), polyvinylchloride (PVC) (used for pipes, electrical insulation and clothing) and nylon in 1935 (mostly used for clothing and parachutes).

 

parachutes-255791 platsic fabriek

(left-nylon parachute, right-plastic mass-production)
During the 30′s of the 20th century, these synthetic products were seen as extremely glamorous and beautiful but still, all these materials did not completely infiltrate society during that time.
While used for a lot of military equipment during the second world war, synthetic products really became part of everyday life after the end of the war when the manufacturers of plastic products had to find a way to stay in the business and therefore aim at people and everyday life. Because of the low price, moldability and the way it could be mass-produced, it is not more than logical that plastic became such a big leading part of the capitalist consumer society.

Gueules cassees, Soldiers with severe facial injuries, First World War (photo)  brazil85

 (left- WW1 plastic surgery, right-plastic surgery movie brazil1985 )

 

Like the plastics, humans are moldable as well, changing along with new inventions. During the same period as the development of synthetics, doctors were forced to find a way to repair the extreme damage done to soldiers during the first world war.
Never before had there been so many heavily wounded soldiers whom all needed treatment for their facial wounds, burns and lost limbs and with the development of anesthetics, surgeons could develop new techniques without the patients experience pain during this operation.
Yet the use of plastic surgery for the beauty industry really kicked off in the 1950′s when the first breast implants were used to enlarge the female breasts.
This was done by injecting it with the liquid, synthetic plastic called silicone and in the 60′s by implanting a bag-like version.
In the 70′s liposuction (removing fat) was developed and not long after that botox was tested on humans for the first time.
Botox temporarily relaxes and smoothes wrinkles by blocking signals from the nerve to the muscles, this gives the user a smooth, young and Barbie-like face.
With this slow infiltration of plastics into the human body, the birth of the plastic human became a fact.
Largely stimulated and promoted by the cosmetic glamour industry.

 

platsic waste plastic ocean

(left- plastic waste mountain, right- plastic ocean)

Due to this rise of plasticity, synthetics slowly took over the world.
The waste created by the plastic consumer society has already created big islands in the ocean intervening with the animal and human world, fish-eating tiny plastic particles, humans eating fish.
Entering our body through food and cosmetic products, plastics are now even detectable in our blood influencing our hormones.
Humans becoming deformed from natural appearance due to cosmetic surgery in their striving for perfection, plastics infiltrating our body and system and the extreme use of plastic products in modern life could in my opinion only lead to the beginning of a more extreme, new plastic human being disbanded from its nature.

floris Voor

(left/right- Floris chair)

To me the in 1968 made Floris chair by Günter Beltzig, which was the starting point for this research, is the perfect example of what has happened and may come.
This chair is made out of fiber reinforced plastic and molded into an alienated human shape which could only have happened because of all the developments and inventions mentioned in the first paragraphs of this research.
The shape of the chair gives the impression that it is a plasticized human being or at least that it is made for such a human, as it seems to be made for a specific kind of person.
Like with the shoe of Cinderella, it should fit perfectly to be a match and not to lose all its comfort.
Is it not possible that it is the plastic ‘perfect’ human of the future who will fit perfectly in this piece of furniture, alienated from his natural self in its plastic world.

 

plastic man  perfect human

 

Community to change the system


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Dave Hakkens creates machines to recycle plastic. The concept Precious Plastic is that everywhere, everybody can build themselves these machines and recycle their plastics. For me, the most interesting point in this concept is the community around it. He says

“To start up an idea is a powerful tool to use these days. A designer is able to bring people together by just sharing an idea or a potential solution.”

 

Dave Hakkens and his projects are accessible in two points.

Most of his design projects are often provides with open-source instruction videos and blueprints, so it is presenting as a do it yourself project. You can inform yourself, make your own machine or your design object, share on social network, and use it. Make and use these projects is to be active to change the system, and be a designer as well.

Furthermore, he is very active on social networks. On YouTube (with 122 000 followers), he often published videos to clearly explain his projects, how to make it etc. But also he has a certain way of life that you can clearly see in his videos called Story Hopper.

or an other link:  here.

If I had the opportunity to talk to Dave, I would ask him if he thinks that in addition to this solution to reduce plastics wastes we also must have to adopt a minimalist and zero waste attitude. For me, the series Story Hopper highlights this way of thinking because he gives advice on how to consume and act more responsibly. These videos fit perfectly with the sharing of opinions and go further with the ideas that he wants to present. He offers more than just designers content while playing with the border of social network influencers.

Also on his website, you can find the forum where you can talk with people around the world. It’s nice to see all these people who said « I want to recycle plastics but I don’t know where or how to start » Finally I understood that in this big community, some other little communities are created to make projects easier. On the topic, someone answer: « try to find people, and build an association or something with many people to reduce costs!»

 

expo_02_1100
V3 Exhibition during the Dutch Design Week

 

I am wondering how this concept can grow and evolve in the rest of the world. Are social media enough to share his ideas? The definition of the word community by the Oxford dictionary is: the condition of sharing or having certain attitudes and interests in common“. 

Dave Hakkens and his projects are accessible for those who know him and who share the same interests. Plastic machines were at first introduced in a museum as an exhibition because Dave Hakkens is at first a designer. So a certain public is interested to see it and in this kind of place, it does not have the same purpose. It is difficult to apply something that you just saw in a museum. You can maybe just except to have a discussion but not really a revolution. What effect would he have if he presents his project in a hardware store? The visitors of both places are different and they are mostly not looking for the same interest. So I am wondering about the accessibility if Dave wants that everyone can build those machines and change the system. For me, to imagine the Precious Plastic project in a context more realistic like the hardware store allows more an action than a proposition that we can not touch and allows a wider impact on the population.

 

I discovered the work of Dave Hakkens thanks to my sculpture class at the Rietveld Academie. Indeed, some students were able to create two of his plastic machines: the injection and the extrusion machine. I spoke with one of these students and she gave me an interesting reflection: « He says that everyone can build those machines, it works for us because we are in art school, so we have all the materials needed and we always can find a way to be creative with the plastic machine, but I am not sure it’s the same in poorer countries, because it has a cost and maybe they did not hear about the Precious Plastic project».

It was quite complicated for students to build these plastic machines because some pieces were difficult to find, expensive, and a lot of detours at the metal workshop were needed. Finally, it took 6 months to complete the injection machine and the extrusion machine is still in construction.

 

 

PLASTIC MACHINE             Injection
Injection machine in the Rietveld (Left beginning of the construction, Right the electronics part has been added)

 

Dave Hakkens went in 2015 to Ghana for research to help the poorest countries to access the construction of plastic machines. As we could experiment at the Rietveld, this needs a lot of resources (internet or specific stores to buy the pieces) and money. But this visit to Ghana shows us that even recycling machines can be an option and it is not necessary to have money. They found machines which are made to press the juice out of fruits which are very similar to the extrusion machine, in this way they were able to reuse these machines as an extrusion machine with a little bit of do-it-yourself.  Also just a few weeks ago, he shipped a big container to the Maldives to clean ocean. However, the help of Dave Hakkens is still necessary to implement these solutions at first. Then, after his visit to Ghana, the local population can be more aware and autonomous to recycle plastic.

The fact that Dave Hakkens brings container is important because “the risk” of this way of building plastic machines is to build them for a personal use or very restrained, as the weekend handyman in his garage. Containers, places of many workshops to recycle plastics, can expand the utilization and bring a lot of people to work together. Indeed, it can not be an activity in its own right, but it should really be part of our way of life and as we can not spend our time recycling plastic. We may wonder if this community of active people is enough? What about the big industries? 

In fact, there is a start-up called The Plastik Bank which collaborates with the big industries. Plastic waste that invades the poorer regions of the world is collected by local people and then sold to companies that recycle it. But in the end, Dave Hakkens gives the opportunity to communities to create something with plastic, be autonomous in the research and win money (if they decide to) as part of the process. It is really like building something new, maybe a new society.

 

To say goodbye one more very interesting article on other people who tried to find solutions for plastic wastes. 

Empty wallet – NO WASTE


Monday, May 27, 2013

“The Sea Chair”

When I first saw the Sea Chair I immediately reacted on the aesthetics – it’s imperfections, hints of craftsmanship, and it’s strange plastic molding. The plastic resembled, though not clearly, marble stone. Soon after I found out of it’s relation to the Great Pacific Patch [x].
The Great Pacific patch is a floating soup of plastic debris covering an area one and a half time the size of USA and is trapped in the currents of the North Pacific Gyre. Many organizations have tried to clean it but it has been deemed as “the worlds largest dump” – feared impossible to defeat.

The plastic debris releases chemical additives and plasticizers into the ocean and finds is way into the food we eat. The fishes and seabirds mistake the plastic for food, as you can see on the picture above showing a Laysan albatross chick (90 % of Laysan albatross chick carcasses and regurgitated stomach contents contain plastics.)

The Sea Chair is made of plastic debris collected from this garbage patch. It is part of a project with the same name lead by design duo Studio Swine, Azusa Murakami and Alexander Groves; in collaboration with Kieran Jones determined to clean this floating dump and lower the production of plastic

The overall concept is to design with sustainable systems while treating the aesthetics with the same importance. With the use of design they form the plastic waste into an aesthetically desirable object. They believe that desire is the factor for change.

The sea chair project uses craftsmanship, together with recycling and protection for the environment, as a part in the ecological cycle. Like a craftman the designer should follow the whole process of production. Studio Swine uses tools and created devices to collect and process the marine debris along the shoreline. The Nurdler is a machine, that was created while being inspired by the miners, sorting plastic from the other waste. The next step is in the Sea Press which is a furnace and hydraulic press that heats and molds the plastic into the stool.

The Nurdler

The Sea Press

The stool is just the start in Studio Swine’s environmental cause. They also want to convert fishing boats into plastic refineries, so that the fishermen would collect plastic instead of fish. They mean that this would lead to lowering the demand for new plastics and therefore also the production of new plastic. Eventually this would also mean that the fisher men could continue fishing instead of picking plastic.

The connection between chairs and the seamen comes from a tradition amongst Britain’s port towns where sailors were required to have carpentry skills for repairing wooden ships at sea and after they retire many of them would continue to make wood furniture, in this case instead of wooden chairs the fishermen would make plastic chairs.

The Sea Chair proves that Eco-design goes hand in hand with craftsmanship and collectivity. Eco-design, since the 60’s, has questioned consumerism, taking inspiration from craftsmanship before the industrial revolution when eco-design was considered a norm and goods such as furniture tended to be made locally by craftsmen using local resources. Studio Swine follows the eco-design concepts of “Do-it-yourself” and engaging the community by making the production process accessible. On their website you can access a manual and video for how to build the devices and create the stool .

Though I desire one of those sea chairs, I’m not gonna be able to make one in this short amount of time. Instead I decided to make the smallest effort in creating from recycling waste material. I was going to empty my wallet from all the “shit” I gathered when I decided to use it as my “waste” material.

So I limited my self to this source material and one tool

I intended to make jewelery or at least functional objects but I’m not a designer so it resulted in something else…


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