PlasticFree is a new database for architects and designers, that aims to help them find plastic-free building materials for projects from architecture to furniture design. From hemp to corn fiber, Plastic Free lists numerous options for sustainable design and architecture.
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The database was started by environmental organization A Plastic Planet. The new service is subscription based and offers in-depth reports on over 100 plastic alternatives to offer information about their properties, production and sourcing. Algae t-shirts, aluminum deoderant packaging, as well as raw materials like elephant grass are not only listed, but explained on Plastic Free.
Related: A foundation upcycles ocean plastic waste into new products
PlasticFree materials sourcing for designers
What we love most about this database is the blog that goes with it, which highlights various materials and their properties. Inspiration for collections, new materials and case studies of how products are being used in product design are all featured on the PlasticFree blog. It’s a resource that can help designers connect with events and the latest news on sustainable materials as well.
“No designer on the planet wants to make branded trash,” said A Plastic Planet’s cofounder Sian Sutherland. “They did not go to design school and care about everything that they produce every single day for it to end up in a bin. But I don’t think designers have been trained for what is expected of them today. So we wanted to create an absolutely authoritative, unbiased, material-agnostic platform that designers can use to learn about materials and their systems.”
Plastic Free was based on over two years of research and development in collaboration with 40 scientists and industry leaders. Contributors to the database include curator Aric Chen, Stirling Prize-winner David Chipperfield and designer Tom Dixon.
New sustainable materials for architecture
Every day there are new materials on the market for sustainable construction. Mushrooms, cross-laminated timber and sustainable cement alternatives are just a few options for the sustainably-minded architect. Plastic Free can help inform architects about the latest building materials and the pros and cons of each new material, which is yet unproven in the real world.
Each material profile even includes a list of questions designers need to consider if they want to work with the material. Will this material be on the market in time for your project? Does this material need to be integrated into a reusable product to offer emissions reduction? Sutherland says they wanted to empower designers to tell them what questions they should ask of materials manufacturers.
Can you challenge a lifecycle analysis or make a different choice than recycled plastics? There is a lot of greenwashing in the sustainable materials space, and this database aims to help cut through the fog to give clear information about the real benefits and down sides of each plastic alternative.
The hottest plastic alternatives on the planet
PlasticFree was designed by London studio Made Thought, who decided to focus the database on materials that offer the biggest gains as alternatives in areas where plastics are heavily used. Packaging and textiles are the top categories at the moment, with building and construction materials added later this year.
There are sections for raw materials like sustainable cork and bamboo that grow much faster to replenish resources than their hardwood alternatives. Specific inventions like potato-based cling wrap and algae ink are featured as niche solutions.
Bioplastics and recycled plastics are also listed as transitional solutions that are less than optimal, but might work well for some applications. PlasticFree is not just aiming to inform designers: it’s aiming to change how we live and interact with materials themselves on a long-term basis.
Images via PlasticFree