DESIGN FOR BIODEGRADABILITY
Fast-moving consumer goods are ephemeral products with a high-volume throughput. Materials that embody these products typically are derived from finite resources; blended with numerous material components; and shaped in components in inseparable assemblies. The materials are rarely recovered due to incompatibility with, and limited availability of waste-collection infrastructure and material-recovery technology. This causes an abundance of waste and a depletion of resources. In contrast, in a circular economy, materials are recovered or regenerated. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation  has identified an opportunity for fast-moving consumer goods to exist in the bio-sphere, i.e. to move to renewable and biodegradable materials, if their end-of-life option can facilitate this.
Biodegradation of biodegradable materials depends on the conditions the material is exposed to that trigger and facilitate this process. Nutrients from bio-based plastics like PLA to growing design materials like mycelium-based materials can only be successfully extracted and returned if that process is controlled. When biodegradable materials embody fast-moving consumer goods with the intention to close material loops, it requires in-depth consideration of the ‘use’ phase, in which consumers interact with these materials on a daily basis until they become obsolete and require adequate transition to an ‘end-of-life’ phase in which they can be regenerated in the biological cycle.
This project aims to investigate: how to design ephemeral products with biodegradable materials? We develop strategies for lifecycles of such materials, including (1) how materials experiences facilitate possession, use, biodegradation and disposal of the material, as well as (2) how to enhance regenerative characteristics of the material through design.
1. Ellen MacArthur Foundation (2013) Towards the Circular Economy (Volume 2): Opportunities for the consumer goods sector. doi: 10.1162/108819806775545321.