Design, Sustainability and Transitional Objects
The blog has been silent lately and there is an awesome reason behind that! I recently joined the Reform Studio Team as a Design Researcher. It’s a new design studio based in Egypt that focuses on designing responsible products.
I’m going to take this opportunity to geek out about one of the studio’s projects which I’m currently working on.
Reform’s first project ‘Plastex’ started out as a university group project but it soon developed from a new material to a new line of furniture. Plastex is a new designed material made out of collected single-use plastic bags that are then interwoven on a handloom, with the aim of extending the life cycle of plastic bags and consequently decreasing the negative impact of trash in Egypt.
I consider Plastex as a transitional object; a term commonly used in child psychology that describes the process a child goes through when he starts to understand the reality of his attachment to his mother.
This process represents a major psychological shift that happens. The child in his early months thinks that his mother and him are one thing, thus the separation process between the two becomes hard. But when a transitional object is introduced, sometimes it’s a teddy bear or a ‘security’ blanket, the child starts to develop a little sense of identity of what is ‘me’ and ‘not me’ and starts to understand the coexistence of other objects or people.
And how is this related to Plastex?
Plastex is a recycled material made from plastic bags. But “it’s not about the thing, it’s about what the thing makes us do.” as Kate Canales says. Unlike other recycled products, this material has a very translucent manufacturing nature that influences how waste is perceived in Egypt or maybe elsewhere. Because the plastic bags do not pass through any major processes that change it’s essence- i.e. It’s not melted. And in turn are used as is, as a raw material; a plastic film. A great durable material that lives for quite sometime and uses a considerable amount of natural energy in its production, practically thinking about it, a material that should not be used for just 12 minutes and then discarded and filed under waste. This re-filing process of thinking of plastic bags as a raw material, plastic and not trash, this is when the psychological shift happens, when people see the material and understand the clear reality of what waste ‘is’ and ‘is not’.
I believe that designing such transitional objects, and not scar tactics, is what is going to transform Egypt into a more sustainable country.