Why collaboration is crucial for solving our global plastics problem

FLF PRODUCT DESIGN
4 min readApr 20, 2021

Plastic is everywhere, that’s not new news. You’re probably sitting on something made of plastic right now, or wearing something that contains plastics.

One of the main problems with trying to solve our world’s plastic issue is that there are so many solutions being sought after in small-scale settings (ie. within a company’s own space). While it is important that people are redesigning their own systems, there is still the need for the system to be changed as a whole.

The plastics problem is a systems problem.

Because the issue is rooted in the system, and not individuals, the key to finding a solution is through collaboration. If the solutions are fragmented between industries and people, the system as a whole will be tougher to fix.

And while I do want to recognize that there are efforts being made in collaborative settings towards this issue, we need to push for even more of it at an even greater scale.

The goal for plastics is to have them never become waste or pollution — this is essentially the circular economy for plastics.

In this video from the Ellen McArthur Foundation, they state that “Recycling alone won’t solve plastic waste and pollution. We must shift our focus to innovation and business models that design out waste, keep our materials in use, and protect and restore our environment.”

A crucial point made in the video, and one that I believe is also a necessary mindset shift that needs to be made overall, is that “materials are designed to be used, not used up.”

How we treat plastics throughout the whole cycle of the system matters.

In the video, the EMF suggests 6 key points of the vision for a circular economy for plastics:

1. Eliminate the plastic packaging we don’t need.

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FLF PRODUCT DESIGN

FLF Product Design — designing and launching new ventures and digital products, with a focus on analytics, organizational design and sustainability.