Made Thought and IBM partner for “world’s first” plastic-free encyclopaedia

The online platform has been designed in collaboration with campaign group A Plastic Planet and aims to encourage plastic-free product design.

London-based design studio Made Thought has teamed up with computer company IBM on the “world’s first online encyclopaedia of plastic-free materials”.

The platform, called Plastic Free, aims to bridge the gap between packaging and product designers who are looking to reduce the use of single-use plastic and manufacturers of sustainable materials. The project is set to go live in spring 2021.

It has been created in collaboration with environmental campaign group A Plastic Planet, which co-created the world’s first plastic-free PPE in July. It is the debut project of Made Thought Labs, which aim to find “creative solutions to the toughest solutions” amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

A “rich database”

According to A Plastic Planet co-founder Sian Sutherland, “the world doesn’t know where to look for a trusted, extensive and unbiased source.” It therefore hopes to offer a “rich database of existing products and raw solutions” for designers’ needs. It has a filtering system which allows you to pick qualities such as oil resistance, malleability and durability. Other options include price and the material’s current uses.

Plastic Free also highlights design inspiration with a showcase of real life plastic-free applications that are “changing the material landscape”. These include postage stamps made from algae and colourful moulded fibres. Crucially, there is also database of suppliers and their specialities with contact information for designers.

It uses IBM blockchain technology to trace and authenticate every material listed. IBM blockchain services leader in the UK and Ireland Jessica Douglas says: “This is a defining moment for the health and wellbeing of humans and the planet. Forward-looking companies that have managed through the immediate crisis of COVID-19 are taking the time to redesign their businesses for the reality.”

The use of plastic in the design and manufacturing industry has been hotly-debated lately. There are concerns that its use has increased because of the amount of PPE and medical equipment produced amid the pandemic. In light of Plastic Free July, Design Week recently explored how graphic design can be used to educate people about the plastic crisis.

BrewDog’s £1m research fund

Made Thought, which recently rebranded BrewDog, has also worked with the craft beer company on an “ambitious sustainability charter” as part of the innovation project. This includes a £1m annual fund to support research initiatives in an attempt to “help the wider industry to have a positive impact on the planet”. Among the planned innovation for BrewDog itself is a carbon-neutral production process and distilling beer from waste bread products found in the supermarket supply chain.

Designers are the “centre point of change”

Made Thought Labs is the new studio division behind both the IBM and BrewDog projects and has been set up to find “radical creative solutions” to problems. In part it is a reaction to COVID-19, though the studio says that it will look beyond 2020’s immediate challenges.

Made Thought co-founder Ben Parker says: “The coronavirus crisis has seen the future accelerate into view. At Made Thought we believe co-creation is key to transformative design to fast forward change.” The method of this “co-creation” will differ project to project, from workshops to events.

Work began on the project in March this year, Parker tells Design Week. “There was a burning need for brands to think more creatively and fast,” he adds. Parker says that the lab is a “new type of working model” for the team. Describing it as a “co-creation partnership”, he says: “Our belief is that business holds the power and ambition; technology holds the systems to make the impossible workable; and brand is the fulcrum, accelerating transformation through influence.”

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  • Mariana Guimaraes August 18, 2020 at 10:51 am

    Did I miss something or is the link to the platform missing? or is it invite only, not accessible to the general public?

    • Tom Banks August 19, 2020 at 3:48 pm

      Hi Mariana, We were waiting on confirmation and have just updated the story to show the project is expected to go live in Spring 2021. Many thanks.

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