Waste, so What? A reflection on waste and the role of designers in a circular economy

Holly McQuillan


This paper discusses research currently being undertaken which addresses the interrelated volume, value and cost of waste and the responsibility designers have in its creation. The paper begins by outlining the contemporary waste problem (in the fashion industry). Then utilising observations made during recent field tests – where waste reduction and elimination strategies were applied to existing designs – the impact that explicit and implicit design hierarchies and complexity have on waste minimisation attempts are discussed. Questions such as: is waste a problem in the context of proposed Circular Economy models? After all, if we have a Circular Economy, then any waste we make can be put back into the cycle. So, will the CE let designers (and industry) off the hook? Lastly, I speculate as to what a fashion industry without waste might look like, discussing my design response to the issues raised.

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