Vox pop

Ahead of the Johannesburg Earth Summit, the Government has floated the idea of reintroducing returnable soft drinks bottles. What can – or should – design do to address the ‘throwaway society’?

‘As designers, we are in a strong position to make any product feel valuable rather than disposable. If the perceived value is greater than the monetary value then consumers are likely to keep a product for a longer period of time. This applies to everything from carrier bags to consumer products. We can also ensure that the product is identifiable with its brand in a three-dimensional form thereby minimising the need for copious packaging.’

Paul Priestman, Director, Priestman Goode

‘The role of design is vital and designers have started to take some responsibility in their use of resources by thinking of the complete life-cycle when designing a product. However, it is only by combining the efforts of designers with those of manufacturers and consumers that this global issue will be resolved and landfill sites full of computers, cars and mobile phones will become a thing of the past.’

Gemma Curtin, Assistant curator, Design Museum

‘Increasingly designers are asked to consider “the environment” in their work. So what can they practically do? Using recycled materials, designing for reuse and recyclability are the obvious first steps. Cutting out the use of harmful chemicals is another important measure. But perhaps the most fruitful avenues may be the most difficult. Designing for durability and ease of upgrade could significantly reduce resource use, but sadly these are not always attributes wanted by product manufacturers.’

Mike Childs, Senior campaigner, Friends of the Earth

‘My dad used to keep nuts and bolts in his old tobacco tins. My mum used to make marmalade for which she carefully saved jam jars. We had a lamp made from an old champagne bottle. Perhaps designers should present packs that are so sturdy, attractive and versatile, that people just can’t bring themselves to throw them away – “this may come in handy one day”.’

George Riddiford, Managing partner, Brewer Riddiford

‘It is a designer’s responsibility to develop solutions with a conscience and to question corporate clients when they are pushing for budget-first solutions.’

Nick Crosbie, Founder, Inflate

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