Date of Award

Spring 6-2-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Industrial Design


Industrial Design

First Advisor

Thomas Thwaites

Second Advisor

David Kim

Third Advisor

Christina Agapakis


One third of all plastics end up in the ecosystem. It is time we start designing for this outcome. 311 million tons of plastics were produced in 2014 and that number is projected to more than double by 2050. Just 5% of plastics are recycled. Recycling alone is not mitigating the problem. The carbon footprint alone is massive. China’s recent announcement to no longer recycle the West’s waste promises even more challenges. We need to design for plastics to end up in the ecosystem and in the waste stream. This is where plastics go and this is where they should degrade.

In a near future, where plastics are soil and marine degradable, consumers will need tools to help identify and correctly dispose of these new materials. This can be done without labels, the aid of the color green or relying on a brown paper bag surface.

These new materials will be easily identifiable, capable of degrading curbside and necessitate a new method for waste collection that encourages rapid biological decay. New biopolymers will rebuild our soils instead of polluting them. This system is based in convenience and observable patterns to restore the balance between thoughtless human behaviors and their resultant environmental detriments. Try as we may to quit plastics, it is simply not possible for the foreseeable future. Instead of behavior change, this work describes a system for thriving in the Plastic Age.

By designing for humanity’s thoughtless acts, the plastics that end up in the ecosystem will no longer be ‘out of place’ but instead in just the right location. Humans are not the end user in this cycle. The microorganisms in our living soils are the audience. Plastics are for dinner. We are the delivery system. Design soil. This work is based in concepts of circular design, regenerative design, restorative design, desirable design, biodesign and now design for the waste stream.



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