Studio ThusThat is a team of material designers working across multiple disciplines to turn industrial waste into beautiful, functional tableware and objects.
Choosing to get creative with often-overlooked materials, ThusThat’s Kevin Rouff and Luis Paco Böckelmann came to us live from their workshop in Amsterdam, explaining their process and mindset around waste re-use for their #C2Takeover on September 23.
The pair also reunited with a former Royal College of Art classmate Amir Afshar, Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer of Shellworks, for a conversation on how we can start to shift perspectives around waste by leveraging design, looking more closely at alternative materials and considering consumer behaviours.
We are delighted to share the top learnings from the Takeover, which you can check out @c2montreal.
Destigmatizing waste comes down to using it in new and exciting ways. “It’s a challenge [because] when you talk about waste you are also admitting that you have it. Admitting that is a big step forward,” said Kevin.
In the past 10 or 15 years there has been a change in attitude, with consumers and companies becoming increasingly open to new ideas and collaborations.
“We’re lucky to work in a time when waste is viewed as a good, alternative material.”
It’s debatable if the change in attitude is coming from consumer pressure or big industries looking at alternatives, but the designers agreed that since everyone contributes to producing waste, everyone should be involved in finding solutions that have long-lasting, positive effects.
“We’re all responsible,” said Amir. “We have a challenge as a society to deal with the problems we’ve created… Interplay needs to happen at different levels.”
First, someone must develop an alternative, explained Paco. “Then the legislative structures need to be in place. And then there’s material culture — consumers need to be aware of what to do with those materials.”
Still, there’s more to be done, especially in shifting consumer behaviours. “We should be trying to effect change on a consumer level quite hard: on education, some commercial compromises on performance, and cost.”
Greenwashing and misinformation around waste can be harmful, as is the lack of understanding around recycling and, often, the infrastructure to support it.
“It’s a very murky space, unfortunately,” said Amir.
He believes “the biggest and most difficult solution is to be completely transparent and upfront about the problems of your product. And not in a skewed, marketing sense.
“When people try to spin information, that causes mistrust and proliferates misinformation. It’s really about understanding the nuances [and] making it clear to everyone in a transparent way.”
Amir suggested there ought to be standardization for things like calculating a carbon footprint: “One set formula for certifying that things are degradable, without an asterix on it that says, ‘See the terms and conditions’… It all comes down to a life-cycle analysis.”
A good pathway for established brands looking to get serious about sustainability is to actively work with small companies and entrepreneurs to find practical answers together.
All agreed that it’s this kind of collaboration that is needed if we expect to see real change. By being open to this kind of collaboration, companies can also breed trust.
“It has to start with smaller partnerships and work upwards… If we are looking at the general consumer market, it’s going to have to scale. And that kind of scale can only come from the top.”
“It’s about interdisciplinary approaches,” Kevin told C2, explaining that, for example, designers can move between academic institutions and a marketable product more quickly. “Because we work with uncommon materials, we have to maneuver between multiple disciplines.”
From their experience working with multiple materials and across disciplines, Kevin told C2 that a lot of the most interesting directions and possibilities already exist, “it’s just a question of making new connections between the right people and what is already there.”
Kevin also suggests looking more purposefully at our material surroundings and the materials embedded in our world — their origins, their by-products, their story. “Question how and where you source materials, and ask what could be done differently.
“And of that which already exists, waste or otherwise, what could you use?”
Catch Studio ThusThat at C2 Online
Attend the panel “Sustainable innovation: How new materials and upcycling are driving a greener future,” presented by Rio Tinto, part of C2 Online — Montréal 2020, October 19-30.
Questions or comments? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org