05 Global Design Forum – The Plastics Cloud

By Sian Disson, Senior Media Consultant

We all know that plastic is a problem. Every time you turn on the news or pick up a paper there’s a shocking new statistic about the size of the plastic waste island floating in the Pacific or volume of easily recyclable material that is still finding its way into landfill.

And whilst these headlines are hard-hitting and the images are often more so, very few solutions have been presented to directly combat the scale of the plastic problem.

Last Friday, the London Design Festival (LDF) provided the first public platform for an innovative design-led technology project led by the Design Thinkers Academy, Thomas Matthews Design and one of the world’s largest software companies SAP, which looks to offer a practical solution to plastic pollution and waste.

Launched in the UK during LDF, The Plastics Cloud is a digital resource that collects and shares data from all points of the plastic life cycle using the Internet of Things in a move to increase collaboration and communication between these otherwise siloed operations.

Using ethnographic research from a group of consumers who took part in workshops and kept digital diaries of their plastic use, a team of 15 fearless innovators – including Unilever, Coca Cola and Procter & Gamble – took part in a Design Sprint to craft solutions to ease consumers’ frustrations and reduce the volume of plastic waste.

The result is a trio of prototypes that are already being tested:

  • Reward 4 Change: A digital app that scans product barcodes and provides the consumer with information on plastic content, how it can be recycled and greener alternatives. The app also offers reward points for making informed choices that can be donated to charitable causes
  • RecycleMate: A digital solution that uses machine learning to identity products from a photograph and direct the consumer to the nearest recycling station
  • Paycup: A tech innovation that transforms refillable cups into payment devices and reward schemes, with the potential to be rolled out into other items in future

Based on comprehensive consumer research and led by some of the brightest minds in the industry, the potential for The Plastics Cloud is immense.

In bringing together such as wide array of real-time data from the plastic life-cycle – from source, through manufacturing to waste product – the project has the ability to become a reliable, collaborative tool to guide new innovations and solutions that directly address this major global challenge.


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