The project REDUCE is an interdisciplinary collaboration between researchers from the fields of design, sociology and history as well as a number of companies and organizations. Together, they will look at plastic in a systems perspective and investigate how we can reduce the consumption of plastic products in everyday life. The project will focus on three consumption areas where a lot of plastic is used: hygiene products, leisure products and products related to childhood, such as toys. As is well known, the plastic we use the most is made from non-renewable carbon resources associated with large greenhouse gas emissions - namely oil. In addition, very little of the plastic we use is currently recyclable. Some plastics leak harmful chemicals and microplastics, and litter the landscape and the sea - therefore we must reduce its consumption. At the same time, plastic is a marvelous material that can be used for almost anything, shaped and colored in an infinity of possibilities. In some products, plastic is by far the most suitable material, and will continue to be so for some time to come, until we find an alternative that can match its properties. These are not the products that are focused on in REDUCE. Rather, the emphasis is on products where there already exist alternatives or where they can be developed. By looking at plastic from different perspectives related to consumers' everyday lives, political regulations and processes, and product development in business - the project aims to identify barriers and opportunities to reduce plastic consumption in the future.
The project will contribute knowledge about:
1. how political framework conditions affect plastic consumption
2. how plastic products are part of consumers' everyday lives
3. how the role of plastic has developed historically and what it means for consumption today
4. innovation opportunities through (re) design of systems, products and services, future scenarios and Designerly living Labs
REDUCE takes a systems-oriented approach to the consumption of plastics in order to identify paths towards less plastic intensive everyday practices. It is a multidisciplinary project combining the fields of design, sociology, and history, to address the role of plastics within a circular economy. REDUCE will produce knowledge about the role and values of plastic products within everyday practices, as well as the role of current framings of the plastic problem in policy and regulations, in order to identify barriers and opportunities for reducing the consumption of plastics. The project targets three consumption areas related to high consumption volumes of plastic products: 1) hygiene, 2) leisure, and 3) childhood.
REDUCE will propose and explore political, social and industrial measures to enable reduced consumption of plastics within these targeted consumption areas. Furthermore, the project will contribute to reframe and expand the plastics problem as it is addressed in policy - exploring how policies and regulations can support us in living differently – or better - with plastics, by using it where it is the best option, and looking for alternatives where it is not. By focusing on pre-life reduction rather than end-of-life recycling, as well as systemic synergies between policy, industry, and consumption, REDUCE aims to take the field of environmental research on plastics consumption to a next level - beyond recycling towards reduction. By including the invisible plastic, and plastic in products that are not referred to as plastic (e.g. synthetic textiles), the project brings an important perspective on everyday plastics into the environmental discussion. REDUCE will inspire future sustainable innovations, encouraging transitions away from the dominance of plastic materials.