Austen Miller Responds to UN Announcement Regarding Plastic in Our Oceans

06 jan 17

In response to the news yesterday that life in the seas risk irreparable damage from a rising tide of plastic waste, Austen Miller (Senior Partner, 3fD) writes:

The world seems to be waking up to the plastic waste crisis in our oceans. Today the UN environment summit in Nairobi declared a ‘planetary crisis’. As a design company, we create products for our clients that are invariably made of plastic. As individuals, we are very conscious that decisions we make in our work can make differences to the environment.

Only last week we turned down a request for a new project based on environmental issues: taking a perfectly good product and making it a disposable item for a commercial advantage.

This is an extreme case where we were in the position to make a moral choice. But as a design business we can’t simply refuse to work on projects out of some sanctimonious belief that the world should somehow work differently.

There are ways that design can help to reduce waste and as a team of individuals who share this planet we know where we can make a difference and at the same time make new product development more efficient.

Designing well, means creating products that are more likely to achieve their lifetimes. Products that are built to do a job and not expire early creating an avalanche of costs and waste materials. 

Designing to be right first time means not producing endless plastic samples for testing, learning our errors and then throwing them away.

We have invested in the simulation tools and the design process to make it possible. It may require a little more time and effort to check tolerances, analyse simulations, or conduct failure modes and effects analysis. Not only does the environment benefit but the user experience is also superior.  A compelling product that can make a user feel good about their purchase is good for our souls, good for the planet, and also good commercially.