The age of waste: five designers modelling a ‘circular economy’

The age of waste: five designers modelling a ‘circular economy’

Imagine if everything we threw away had a new life. We talk to pioneering designers whose products are made from waste

Humans have always named epochs of history for the materials that define them: from the stone, bronze and iron ages to the 100 years that straddle the turn of the 20th and 21st centuries, known as the plastics age. But now, as the finite resources of our planet become ever scarcer, are we about to enter the “waste age”?

Two-thirds of the resources we take from the Earth are discarded. We are throwing away, burning and burying the same valuable materials we have gone to such great lengths to excavate – to the extent that copper can now be found in higher concentrations in the ash left over from the incineration of rubbish than in traditionally mined ore. In the UK, we each produce 1.07kg of rubbish every day (it’s almost double that in America). Of the virgin materials used by the fashion industry, 47% don’t even make it into the clothes on the high street. Approximately one-third of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted, while we cut down rainforests to make space to grow more. And by 2050, it is estimated that the oceans will contain more plastic than fish.

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