Beirut Design Week Meets Scrap Lab: Fellows Talk Sustainable Design




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Jun 06, 2016
by Heather Jaber
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Beirut Design Week Meets Scrap Lab: Fellows Talk Sustainable Design

Thai Fellow travels to Lebanon to continue work of “Beyond Green” session Singh Intrachooto at Beirut Design Week 2016

“No matter how hard you try, there will always be waste,” said Singh Intrachooto on May 22 at Beirut Design Week to an audience facing a large-scale waste crisis. Intrachooto, Salzburg Global Fellow and head of the Creative Center for Eco-Design at Kasetsart University Architecture in Thailand, came to Lebanon to discuss innovative approaches to dealing with material waste.

Intrachooto traveled to Beirut to join forces with three-time Salzburg Global Fellow Doreen Toutikian, director of the MENA Design Research Center and founder of Beirut Design Week to talk about creative approaches to modern problems. Intrachooto and Toutikian, who met at Schloss Leopoldskron during the February 2016 session Beyond Green: The Arts as a Catalyst for Sustainability, were awarded a grant by the David Rockefeller Fund to support Intrachooto’s participation in Beirut Design Week and workshops to develop sustainable and recyclable materials for projects in Lebanon.

Lebanon has been in the midst of a waste management crisis for nearly a year after the country’s main landfill was scheduled to close with no other alternatives put in place for trash disposal or recycling. In Thailand, Intrachooto told a receptive audience, for every truckload of a product with lasting value, about 32 truckloads of waste follow. For that reason, Intrachooto decided to provide incentives to manufacturers for sorting their waste and rethinking the way we use different types of waste.

“Can we as a creative sector, as designers, use our knowledge and tools to solve modern problems?” Intrachooto asked, providing an answer in the form of Scrap Lab

Scrap Lab engages young designers with manufacturers to collect their waste, experiment with it, and ultimately turn it into marketable and profitable new products. Recognizing that manufacturers would be less resistant to this “upcycling” than to simply reducing their waste output, Scrap Lab doesn’t plan to change companies’ business models, but instead turn their waste into new business ideas. Examples of this reuse of waste have included turning the leftovers from the button making process into an alternative to terrazzo, glass dust into porous “eco stones” to help water plants, and even coffee into tiles (that now cover the walls of Starbucks across Asia). Other unconventional materials, like bags from kidney dialysis or foil snack packages, have also been transformed into new products. 

“[We] do not change the business model of anybody,” said Intrachooto, “but once there’s waste, that’s where Scrap Lab comes to give a hand, to help participate.”

Some of these materials were met with hesitance by the general public. Intrachooto shared his experience working with hospital waste, recounting the initial reactions he received. 

“When I wanted to work with hospital waste, everybody said ‘no, it’s dangerous,’” he said. “Would it be toxic, would be too contaminated? In fact, I was afraid too.” 

After learning that only 60% of this waste is actually contaminated, the Fellow realized the the remaining sterile 40% was being dumped as well. With this material, “stress karma toolkits” were created for patients who were hospitalized for more than a week to lower their stress levels.

Although Intrachooto’s experience with waste reuse and sustainability is rooted in Thailand, the subject matter was right at home in Lebanon, where sustainable design concepts carry special potential in the wake of a recent failure to collect and treat its waste. Toutikian touched on the potential this link created for designers in the nation.

“I think Singh’s input was very appreciated and valued by our design community,” she said, “because he comes from a country with similar challenges and can understand the difficulties in developing sustainable design and integrating it in the country’s infrastructure.”

To read more about how art can be a catalyst for sustainability, check out the full report from Session 561 | Beyond Green: The Arts as a Catalyst for Sustainability