On its pristine manufactured surface, plastic is regarded as a universal material that plays a significant, albeit invisible, role in contemporary societies (Freinkel 2010). Incorporated into the vast major of products we buy and interact with on a daily basis, ranging from ballpoint pens to shrink wrapped cucumbers, the infiltration of plastic into our human existence can be increasingly seen throughout the world. What happens, however, when this environmentally unsustainable miracle material can no longer be produced?
The variety of products and materials labeled as ‘plastic’ are produced from raw materials derived from the catalytic cracking of crude oil or the modification of natural gas (Rujnic-Sokele & Baric 2014). These raw materials are industrially processed and refined to produce a wide variety of plastics for different purposes. Not only are plastic materials produced from a finite resource; their synthetic nature also means they cannot readily return to the earth once disposed.
Further, oil is a finite resource, which will one day run out. The U.S. Energy and Information Administration (2014) predict the global supply of crude oil, liquid hydrocarbons and biofuels is sufficient to meet global demands for the next 25 years, however, state “There is substantial uncertainty about the levels of future liquid fuels supply and demand.” (U.S. Energy and Information Administration 2014). In future years, the continued use of refined crude oil and natural gas across industries will cause changes as materials become less abundant.
In response to petroleum plastic based production, companies and individual designers have begun to develop alternative materials and design practices in an attempt to ensure ecological sustainability. Bakeys is a company established in 2010 in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India, with the aim to develop an alternative, holistic approach to disposable cutlery (Bakeys 2016). The company, founded by Narayana Peesapaty, produces edible spoons made from sorghum flour, rice flour, and wheat flour (Munir 2016) in a variety of Indian inspired flavours including ginger-cinnamon, cumin and black pepper. The design came as a response to both excessive single use plastic items (such as disposable cutlery) and a complete understanding of the product lifecycle, including raw material use, energy consumption, waste disposal and decomposition. The spoon can either be used and consumed with the meal or disposed of, decomposing in “4-5 days” (The Better India 2016, 1:25).
At the time of writing, the project is currently seeking funding on kickstarter. More than $210,000 has been pledged, far surpassing the $20,000 goal with still 8 days to go. The company aim to expand production in an attempt to lower consumer costs and make the spoon competitively priced with plastic alternatives (The Better India 2016). In current and future years, initiatives like Bakeys are important in instilling change across societies, as the shift to alternative raw materials becomes critical in ensuring the reduction of natural resource use.
Bakeys 2016, About Us, Bakeys Foods Private Limited, India, viewed 8 April 2016, <http://www.bakeys.com/about-us/>.
Freinkel, S. 2011, ‘Plasticville’ in Plastic: A Toxic Love Story. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Munir, S. 2016, Edible Cutlery: The Future of Eco Friendly Utensils, Kickstarter, viewed 8 April 2016, <https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1240116767/edible-cutlery-the-future-of-eco-friendly-utensils>.
Rujnic-Sokele, M. & Baric, G. 2014, ‘LIFE CYCLE OF POLYETHYLENE BAG’, Annals of the Faculty of Engineering Hunedoara, vol. 12, no. 1, pp. 41-8.
The Better India 2016, India Innovates Episode 4 – Edible Cutlery, videorecording, Youtube, viewed 8 April 2016, < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-2WiqOtlqg>.
U.S. Energy and Information Administration 2014, Do we have enough oil worldwide to meet our future needs?, U.S Department of Energy, Washington, viewed 3 April 2016, <http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=38&t=6>.