Meet Michael

Cellulose Spaghetti’ is the latest Trash-2-Cash podcast, and the first to feature one of our science partners.

Dr Michael Hummel is part of the Aalto Chem team working on chemically dissolving waste to produce new, high quality textile fibres. The Ioncell-F process they’ve developed won last year’s Global Change Award, and Michael explains more about the process, and potential impact in the podcast.

In Michael’s words

Ioncell-F is a new method to create so-called ‘man-made cellulosic fibres’. These are meant to replace, or be an alternative to, cotton. There have been a few fibres on the market – most prominently Tencel and Viscose – but the problem with Viscose is that it’s connected to a lot of toxic chemicals, so the process is anything but green. The fibres are good (in the end), but the way to get to these fibres is not really in line with 21st century sustainability thinking.

So there’s a need for new processes. The Tencel process is one of them, but it is limited…the process that we have come up with is more versatile, and that is reflected in the trash that we can transform into high quality fibres.

The feedstock that we’re using to produce these fibres is cellulose…and it doesn’t really matter where it comes from – whether old cotton textiles, fresh wood pulp, or used cardboard boxes. As soon as we can isolate the cellulose, we can convert it.

(But what actually is cellulose?)

Cellulose is a polymer. Most people connect that term to synthetic polymers (or oil based products), but cellulose is a natural polymer – the most abundant natural polymer on earth in fact. In every biomass you’ll find cellulose – from a little in algae, to 90% or more in cotton.

It’s an amazing resource that hasn’t been valorized yet.

– – – – – – –

Michael goes on to talk about how you spin a solution into a fibre (a hint is in the title of the podcast), how colours and dyes affect the recycling process and he tells us what an ionic liquid is. Michael also explains how collaborating with designers has helped to move what might have been a small lab based project onto the global stage, with the chance to make a real impact on the lifecycle of all textiles.

This is an insightful podcast that highlights why we need science, design and industry to come together to help solve real and urgent problems.

Listen to Michael’s story on either Soundcloud or iTunes…and don’t forget to subscribe for more

Meet Reima’s R&D Project Manager in the latest Trash-2-Cash Podcast

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In this podcast, Prof Becky Earley catches up with Matilda Laitila – an R&D Project Manager at cool Finnish Children’s brand Reima. For more than 70 years Reima has been supplying cosy clothing encouraging people to play outdoors, no matter the weather.

 

Through projects like Trash-2-Cash Reima intends to continue being the world’s leading expert in outdoor clothing for children. It’s also important for T2C to have industry partners who are at the ‘coal face’ of performance wear, to make sure fibres we develop in the project will be commercially viable in that sector.

 

Founded in 1944, there was a shortage of raw materials, so the first Reima products (women’s work wear) were manufactured out of old army snowsuits. As performance is such an important part of outdoor fashion design, there’s always been a focus on material breakthroughs at Reima – Enstex material was introduced, then followed by Reimatec. Matilda’s job is to study new materials that will help them meet their goals of a waterproof, abrasion resistant and comfortable garment.

 

Reima also has pretty inspiring pillars of responsibility around sustainability, covering material and product development, the supply chain, and future recycling systems.

 

Matilda talks about all of this in the latest Trash-2-Cash podcast, available on iTunes and Soundcloud now. 

Sticky and Stranded in Copenhagen: Reporting from Trash-2-Cash WS05

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Copenhagen was strangely sultry for mid-September.  Each morning as we walked/metro-ed/uber-ed our way to Copenhagen Business School the sun was warm and uplifting.  But then as the day progressed it became uncomfortably sticky until the cool relief of the late summer evenings. This unseasonal weather seemed to set the tone for the meeting.

 

We greeted each other with the broad smiles and genuine embraces which only come with the familiarity of a year’s worth of working together.  Although there was an anticipation about the difficult questions we had to answer over the two-day workshop, the atmosphere was warm and optimistic (something that the Skype calls has rarely managed to achieve).

 

In the morning we proceeded with the planned talks and activities, sharing knowledge about T2C materials on a tour of R&D islands.  In the heat of the afternoon, we started to explore our design islands.  Navigating from materials R&D to new design concepts was tricky at first, it took a while for people to adjust to the unfamiliarity of design applications – the journey could have been smoother.  At the end of Day 1 it wasn’t clear if we had achieved everything we had intended; had the two areas of materials knowledge from science and design cross-pollinated or simply passed each other by?  And some difficult questions about project direction remained unresolved.

 

By contrast Day 2 was a dramatic voyage.  We started by raising again the project direction issues in an open discussion.  There was an uncomfortable uncertainty as partners discussed their contribution to solving the problems.  Through some brilliant tools and mediation from our lead facilitator from Material Connexion and the generous collaboration of all of the partners, gradually the indecision turned into commitments and the sticky discomfort changed to excited optimism.

 

As we fed back the previous day’s Design and R&D Island work to the whole group, we began to see the project pulling together in a synchronicity that hadn’t been possible before.  The project materials lined up with the manufacturing capabilities and we began to see the types of products they could become.

 

The joy after a truly intense, sticky and rocky 2 Day journey was palpable: “This was the best workshop yet”.  Even if at times it felt like we might at any moment become stranded, the hard work of working together paid off.

 

My big takeaway from Copenhagen: “we need uncomfortable moments to progress”

 

And the result?  By workshop 06 in London we will have our first design concepts and our first Trash-2-Cash material samples.

New Trash-2-Cash Podcast – Meet Tina

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In this new podcast, Trash-2-Cash Researcher Tina Mueller of Copenhagen Business School explains why the Intention-Behavior gap is important in understanding consumer perceptions of recycled goods. To learn more about social marketing and sustainability research from the customer’s perspective, go to iTunes or SoundCloud to listen. Don’t forget to subscribe so you receive all new episodes automatically!

Discovering new Islands: preparations for Workshop 05

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This reflective blogpost is written by one of TED’s Trash-2-Cash Post-Doctorial Researcher’s Dr. Rosie Hornbuckle about the process of getting ready for next week’s workshop session in Copenhagen.

 

Each Trash-2-Cash (T2C) project workshop brings new challenges for the methodology team.  The process of planning the activities which form the basis of the design-science interactions is in itself an experimental collaborative design process.  We begin by sharing ideas around some key objectives for the workshop, we identify current challenges that we need to address and try to come up with appropriate ways to do this in the workshop using methods and tools from our collective experience.  Sometimes this means devising experimental workshop sessions, other times all that is needed is a conventional PowerPoint presentation or an open discussion.  And then occasionally – to our great relief – a situation arises where we can repeat activities that we know have worked in previous T2C workshops (WS).

 

WS05 in Copenhagen is based on one of these ‘tried and tested’ activities. Julie Hornix from design agency VanBerlo, recalled a session that Material Connection had prepared for WS01 in Stockholm, way back in September 2015 (timely that it is reappearing exactly one year on).  In its first appearance the session was described as a ‘marketplace’ with scientists each having a ‘stall’ to share the different fibre technologies they would be developing in the project.  Our methodology team recalled that it had been a particularly effective and engaging way to share knowledge, introducing designers to the materials they would be helping to develop, using samples, videos and diagrams instead of scientific datasheets or dense papers.

 

Right now, we are at a Milestone in the project where Fibre Prototype 1 has been produced and so, once again our materials scientists have significant new knowledge to share with all of the partners.  Differently, this time, designers also have work to present: new design briefs and Concept Areas have been developed from all of our scenario work, and in Copenhagen our design and manufacturing partners will be choosing which Concept Areas they want to work on in more depth.

 

This time instead of a marketplace we have decided that Islands are an appropriate place for interdisciplinary discovery: groups will visit each island in turn to unearth the newly formed gems of scientific endeavor and design ideas.

 

On our Science Islands visitors will be able to see the first scientific results demonstrated through fibre samples with the best scientists in their field on hand to answer probing questions.

 

On our Design Islands visitors with discover material and product samples showing cutting edge design in three different types of application. Leading textile and industrial designers will provoke, translate and ideate to develop Concept Areas through discussion. They will be on hand to respond to questions from the scientists and manufacturers about how these design visions align with technical material challenges.

 

WS05 promises to be an exciting moment for all of the T2C partners: the methodology team get to use a repeatable workshop design; the scientists get to present their first results and glimpse the types of products their fibres could become; manufacturers can start to realise the types of textile structures and finishes that they will be able to test; designers will finally get something tangible and meaningful to work with: real materials and actual product concepts.

Going round in circles…. Can coloured fashion and textiles be sustainable? By Dr. Dawn Ellams

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For most designers the relationship we have with colour is a huge part of our personal handprint on the work we create; and as consumers colour is all around us and is an integral part of the decision making process for purchases. However, when aiming to produce future sustainable fashion and textiles the environmental consequences of the creation and application of colour and the implications of the processes used are less obvious.

 

Embarking on my PhD I was fascinated by how such a complex, integral piece of fashion textile design and production, profoundly reliant on petrochemical resources, can evolve to fit within a model of sustainability. My research explored reducing the environmental impact of coloured fashion textiles, exploring the life cycle of products through an interdisciplinary approach where the creativity of design thinking is underpinned by the technical inquiry of coloration technology, to provide models for short-term and long-term solutions for sustainability.

 

A reoccurring thread within my research is natural versus synthetic. Although in some very niche, small, local cases natural may be better, on a commercial, large scale it is much more complex.  Producing coloured fashion and textiles requires two key elements – fibre and dyestuff. Navigating my way through fibre choices was at times daunting, but ultimately I decided to work with a regenerated cellulose fibre, Lyocell, which is technically ‘natural’ but produced within a manmade chemical process.

 

This fibre choice set up a biological life cycle framework to work within to create sustainable coloured fashion textiles. For colour choice (dyestuff), the natural versus synthetic argument raged much more zealously, with the only definitive conclusion on offer being whether from natural or synthetic sources, all colour for textiles has some level of negative environmental impacts. In the end it’s all about appropriateness.

 

Frustrated by being just an observer and desperately needing more definitive answers to how sustainable coloured fashion textiles can be designed and produced, I carved out a space for my research in the ‘space in-between’ science and design. Through my project this context became a place to explore sustainable textiles from ‘within’ the system; not from a purely design or science perspective, but from an obscure and fascinating little area in the middle where the disciplines intertwine.

 

Working at this design/technology interface enabled me to create definitive outcomes for my research, negatives would become positives and vice versa, as the two disciplines collided within my provocative new space. This provided both the creative methods and outcomes but also, vitally for me, underpinned with environmental credentials. As a designer I began not just to understand but also challenge the technical implications of my design decisions, using this new knowledge to ultimately design product life cycles.

 

I was incredibly fortunate to have an amazing supervisor during my research, a colour chemist who loved learning about design as much as I loved learning about science. It was this relationship between a chemist and a designer, the openness and trust we developed – constantly challenging and questioning the other – and ultimately jumping together into the ‘space in-between’ from which the developed interdisciplinary methodology from my research emerged.

 

My research concluded that both sustainable and responsible coloration is possible at a commercial scale within cyclical models of design and production.

The First Trash-2-Cash Podcast

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During the Trash-2-Cash workshop in Milan in the beginning of the summer, Professor Becky Earley sat down with project partner Julie Hornix (VanBerlo) to talk social design, megatrends, and summer reading recommendations. This is the first podcast in a series that will explore the people, methods and tools involved in the Trash-2-Cash (T2C) project. Once the outcomes phase of the project has been completed they will also host in-depth discussions about the impact these will have on the world. You can download the podcast on iTunes or Soundcloud now! Julie has written the post below to accompany the podcast.

 

Over the past couple of months Ivo, Marjorie and I have had the pleasure of taking part in the Trash-2-Cash (T2C) project representing the Dutch design agency VanBerlo.

 

VanBerlo is passionate about helping our planet.
We’re also passionate about design and technological opportunities. So for us, this partnership was a match made in heaven. Here’s a short round up of our role and goals for T2C.

 

Dream Green!
At VanBerlo, we crave new approaches to the re-use of materials and waste reduction. To dream is to think big, and by thinking big you can come up with countless ideas to help the environment through design. We love to bridge the ideas with the visual, enabling us to go that one step further.

Joining the T2C project, VanBerlo’s goal is to help recycle textile from a design-driven perspective. Alongside the other T2C partners, we aim to increase the value of the end product (instead of traditional downcycling) – to upcycle and contribute to the grave to cradle initiative – no matter which industry is involved.

 

Not only do we bring global trend research to the table, but we also explore ideas in novel ways that help to produce surprising insights.
As our Senior Designer Ivo Lamers explains,“We believe that design thinking will help bridge the gap between science, technology and practice. This approach helps to boost the entire T2C project! At VanBerlo we often use metaphors to get discussions started, intensified, structured or sometimes even ended. Using the superhero metaphor during the Helsinki workshop initiated a huge team spark and helped to create common understanding and a common language between the partners about scenarios.”

 

We make sure that our ideas aren’t just cool; but that they also answer business challenges and user needs.
At the end of the day success for us is that the results should be accessible and globally relevant, rather than just being created for a niche market.

Julie Hornix, Design Researcher, Van Berlo

 

Podcast Links

VanBerlo

Change Ahead book

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close book

This American Life podcast

99% invisible podcast

‘Making… together’ by Dr Rosie Hornbuckle

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My background is product and industrial design with an interest in social innovation, so when I started working at TED on the Trash2Cash project last November, I wanted to explore how my world fits into Textile Design and the interests of TED researchers.

 

What I discovered were the many overlaps in methods and models between the two disciplines, but also the spaces in between.  In terms of making and materials there is still a difference in materials understanding; product design students are taught hard materials, fashion and textiles students are taught soft materials.  This is starting to change, for example in the ‘stitch’ option on the BA Textile Design course at Chelsea, students are putting all sorts of hard and soft materials together, and the MA Material Futures course at CSM continues to push at those traditional boundaries.

 

This intersection between hard and soft materials (and disciplines) appeared to me to be a bridge I could cross from my existing knowledge into the new (to me) world of Textiles.  At the same time, I was exploring experimental research methods that could be useful in TEDs current and future work.

 

Enter Vicky Cable, a forward-thinking upholsterer and an extraordinary person (more on that later!) who wanted to explore more sustainable methods in her work.  The ‘collaborative chairs’ idea was first suggested by Becky Earley whilst exploring ideas for the Circular Transitions conference exhibition, the seed was sewn, and so the ‘making…together’ project began.

 

The act of re-upholstery is in itself a good solution to the aging of a piece of furniture, repairing and updating the aesthetic.  Yet, as Vicky and I explored in our first meeting, it also exposes many unsustainable and worrying trends in the furniture industry, such as speed, cost and the use of inappropriate materials – all of which are currently being explored by TED researchers in relation to Textiles. In furniture, the contrast between the speeds of the materials is heightened, because hard materials are more durable and soft materials (padding as well as the fabric) degrade and wear relatively quickly.  The process of re-upholstery exposes this tension brilliantly and therefore offers a unique opportunity to understand not only how the materials used in re-upholstery could be reconsidered but also how the design and manufacture of upholstered furniture could be improved at the outset.

 

For me, sustainability is never just about materials, but also about people, so this project will also consider that angle, in terms of the designer’s activism and approach and the accessibility of more sustainable products and solutions.

Materials! at WS04 Material Connexion Milano

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We’ve come back from WS04 in Milan with an overwhelming feeling that this can work.

 

This is a significant moment for Trash-2-Cash for a number of reasons: we’re almost one year in, we’ve just completed our first official sharing of written knowledge between disciplines (through 4 internal reports), Cycle A: Design has ended and Cycle B: Application has begun, but most importantly we’re really starting to understand one another and our different contributions to the project.

 

Not everything ‘worked’ at this workshop.  The methodology team has achieved a lot but we are still learning, the ‘design-driven’ approach is very new to all of us.  It’s trial and error; we use our experience and knowledge to plan appropriately, make on-the-spot changes, and introduce experimental tools as well as tried and tested ones.

 

So, as a testament to what we’ve achieved and how a project like this can work (with so many partners, with different backgrounds, languages, disciplines and cultures), we’re going to share some of the ‘tops’ (the best bits) reported by partners in Milan…

 

  • We loved using the materials samples to understand where we’re heading
    The venue for this workshop – Material Connexion Milano HQ – really allowed us to touch, to feel and discuss material properties.  One partner remarked that the location had provided an amazing ‘ambience’ for the workshop (and we could even work outside in the sunshine!)

 

  • We now understand the project ‘State of the Art’
    This has been difficult to achieve in the first year as results were still emerging and partners were still getting to grips with how their work aligned with everyone else’s.  It was the right time to dedicate some significant attention to Work Package presentations.

 

  • We can understand more about our business by hearing what challenges lie ahead for the material through the whole supply chain
    An incredible benefit of this project are the huge range of companies representing most of the material lifecycle and the great level of expertise that can be shared at each workshop – everyone is learning, even the most experienced people.

 

  • The different ways that the methodology team creates opportunities for cross-disciplinary discussions is fantastic
    Each activity is carefully designed to enable particular discussions and analysis to take place.  We reflect on the strengths and weaknesses and adapt our approach accordingly.

 

  • Learning about the fibre production process
    Fibre science and material production is really starting to make sense to designers which in turn opens up doors to creativity and will be an invaluable resource later in the project.

 

  • We are now starting to focus, connecting the dots and the details are emerging – “the project starts now!”
    After much hard work at the ‘fuzzy end’ of the process, partners are starting to see some clarity in what we want to achieve and how we are going to achieve it.

 

  • Cherries!
    In the true sharing spirit of the project, our Slovenian partner brought a gift of cherries.

 

We also had tips (things to improve) which clustered around the need for the science partners to share specific results in smaller groups and in person, not only on Skype… something we will think seriously about in our preparations for WS05 in Copenhagen.       

T2C Weather Report: Preparations for Workshop 04 in Milan

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Workshop 04 (WS04) is almost upon us and Milan in May promises to be everything that Helsinki in March (WS03) was not: warm with a strong technical front moving in from the east.

 

In Helsinki we were treated to a plethora of design approaches to collaboratively add colour and context to our visions for the Trash-2-Cash (T2C) fibres.  We also saw, bubbling up on the horizon, a desire for the science and technology results and challenges to be more openly discussed, shared and addressed.  WS04 will therefore allow the technical partners the time and space necessary to get into the nitty gritty of issues like garment sourcing, fibre elongation and pretreatments… and for the designers this will be an opportunity to find out how ‘garment sourcing, fibre elongation and pretreatments’ actually affect the senso-aesthetic and performance potentials of the new T2C fibres.

 

I shudder at the thought of describing Design as the ‘weakening front’ in this weather analogy but a partial withdrawal is a necessary part of a balanced system, allowing the atmosphere to evolve before pushing back to challenge the technical direction.  In this way the role of Design in Milan will be to support the technical exchange and, perhaps for the first time, scientific and technological challenges can benefit from designerly approaches to problem solving.  The methodology team have designed activities to enable communication within disciplinary groups as well as between partners.  We will take workshop tools to help facilitate discussion, interpret ideas between disciplines, and identify the opportunities in seemingly impossible challenges.

 

WS04 is also a milestone in the T2C project as we bring together official internal insight reports (‘deliverables’ in EU speak) from four different disciplinary areas: marketing; science & technology; design and materials.  This ‘coming together’ of the different areas of project knowledge in a documentary form marks an important stage in the collaboration, taking it out of the messy brainstorm discursion of the workshop into something more considered and tangible.  Together these reports will help each person sitting in their own (disciplinary and geographical) climate to build a more complete picture of the kinds of fibres we plan to develop.  Not all of it will make sense to everyone.  And that’s the other agenda for WS04; to make it make sense, to elucidate the picture that has begun to be pieced together individually and make it vivid in collaboration; a forecast map taking into account all of the different perspectives.

 

When we return on May 27th, back in our own offices, studios and labs, we will all have a clearer picture of the design and technical ‘outlook’ for T2C fibres, and be able to begin work on developing new prototypes in earnest.