Waste Age: Design Museum exhibition asks what can design do to tackle the problem of waste

The Design Museum has launched Waste Age: What can design do? , an exhibition showing what design can do to tackle the problem of waste and its environmental consequences across the globe.

The exhibition at The Design Museum in London invites visitors to explore how designers are redefining fashion, construction, food, electronics, packaging and more through over 300 objects, by designing out waste and creating a more circular economy.

The first section of the exhibition, ‘Peak Waste’, confronts visitors with the epic scale of global waste – shining a light on how mass production and consumption habits contribute to growing landfills. While the second part of Waste Age, ‘Precious Waste’, focuses on solutions and new thinking.

‘Precious Waste’ invites visitors to learn more about the raw materials used in everyday products through object deconstructions by Studio Drift as well as the designers leading the way in recycling waste into new resources. These include sustainable materials in fashion by Stella McCartney, Adidas and Bethany Williams; to construction materials such as the K Briq by Kenoteq, which uses almost 90% less carbon than a regular brick, and new lives for plastic like the S-1500 chair by Snøhetta, made from discarded fishing nets.

In ‘Post Waste’, the third part of the exhibition, visitors can discover more about new circular methods of production, with a focus on grown rather than extracted materials. It features experimental designs that introduce a whole new world of clothing, products and packaging made from natural materials such as coconut, algae, and corn husks. Fernando Laposse’s The Dogs bench uses raw fibres from the leaves of the Agave plant and The Blast Studio’s 3D printed column, made with waste and the fungus Mycelium, promotes a no-waste architecture.

‘Post Waste’ also delves into how everyone can change their systems and behaviours to consume less. It examines models of sharing, labelling, and design-for-disassembly, which can help objects last for longer, be repaired and significantly reduce how much is manufactured and discarded.

Justin McGuirk, Chief Curator and Waste Age Co-Curator, said: “Design has helped create our wasteful society, and it will be crucial in building a cleaner future. That means rethinking the lifestyles and materials that do so much damage. This optimistic exhibition demonstrates the energy and ingenuity being applied to the challenge – and we want it to mark a turning point. There is so much we can do, but it begins with understanding our waste.”

By showcasing local solutions like Kamikatsu, a Zero Waste Town in Japan, and a display of tool sharing libraries across the world, the exhibition promotes living without waste and imagines a more resourceful world for future generations.

Waste Age: What Can Design Do? is currently on at The Design Museum in London until 20 February 2022

Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about lifestyle including sustainable and green living

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