Young designer Enis Akiev from Kazakhstan, develops a technique to create tiles out of discarded plastic packaging.
Invented just after the turn of the twentieth century, the mass production of the synthetic polymers of plastic is a fairly recent invention. However, its rapid rise as the utopian material in a short span of time is rather overwhelming.
Adopted for its convenience and adaptability, plastic emerged as an answer to replace products that relied on animal remains and natural resources, and soon was afflicted by the evils of consumerism and capitalism. Now, when the plastic clogs our landfills and destroys the sea life, we realise humanity’s heavy hand has led to the abundant plastic debris which mostly likely would be the new epoch of our anthropocene.
Apart from preventive measures to conserve natural resources, we should learn to address the obvious looming problems caused by human intervention and create an alternative resource bank. In recent times, an argument of whether recycled plastics or bio-plastics would be a better future replacement for plastic has emerged. With the toxicity attached to the use of plastics and the process of continuous recycling diminishing the quality, bio-plastics come out as an unchallenged winner. However, the question of how to dispose the existing plastic waste still remains.
Statistics state, globally, 14 percent of plastic packaging is recycled and only five percent remain the same quality and the rest is processed to less valuable applications, after which it can not be further recycled. So the need of the hour is for young designers to come up with alternatives to re-establish the structure of material technology and overall advancement.
Kazakhstani designer Enis Akiev has devised a method using discarded plastic packaging to create tiles that mimic the organic process of rock formation. Data on the abundance of plastic waste and its persistence to remain, which finally leads to severe ill-effects, are very alarming. Akiev, a graduate of Köln International School of Design, explains, “Plastic can never be really thrown away and would finally make its way to landfills and ocean beds.”
After oceanographic researchers stumbled upon new rocks on a beach on the Big Island of Hawaii in 2013, which ever since have been dubbed plastiglomerates, Akiev dived into a deeper investigation of the geological process of the formation of this plastic rock.
When plastiglomerate – a portmanteau of plastic and conglomerate – undergoes natural weathering influences, plastic waste melds with its surrounding natural materials such as rocks, sand and mineral fragments to form a rock similar to a metamorphic rock.
Akiev subjected her tiles to similar conditions with the intent to devise a material that is aesthetically as well as qualitatively valuable. Just like in the organic geological process of rock formation this material when subjected to heat, pressure, and movement developed interesting colourful and irregular patterns, providing an interesting pop of colour and aesthetic to the plastic stone tiles.
Part of her inspiration also stemmed from the query of how plastic behaves in nature. Studies suggest, on an average a consumer uses packaged goods for less than 15 minutes before discarding it. To revitalise single-use packaging waste by providing it longevity post disposal, Akiev collects household plastic waste from trash-sorting facilities. The designer then sorts the plastic as per its colour and type. After cleaning, the plastic is melted in an oven to make it pliable, before casting and pressing it in different forms. As a final step, tiles are cut in standard sizes and finally sanded to provide uniform smoothness.
No additional colour or binder is required, Akiev uses the various colour options that are available in plastic packaging, and several unpremeditated patterns are derived from the way the material is layered. This process provides a vast variety of colour and pattern options with each piece being organically unique.
Her work does not support the production of plastic nor legitimise it, on the contrary, Akiev says, “I aspire to create a product cycle which without degenerating creates a sustainable manmade material.”
Akiev’s efforts to not only view waste as resource but to also focus on the longevity of the product would certainly inspire designers to rethink resource strategies and stimulate an exploration of innovative sustainable materials.
Text By Shweta salvi