The London Design Festival is an annual event attracting half a million visitors to a diverse celebration of design. Taking place this year from September 14 to 22, the event is a platform for telling hundreds of design stories. One of those narratives — perhaps one of the most important — addresses the need to reduce ocean plastics.

  • Design and technology can help create a more sustainable world, one free of single-use plastic

Ben Evans conceived the festival with Sir John Sorrell in 2003 and believes that now, more than ever, design plays a vital role in creating sustainable solutions to big challenges like plastic pollution.

“Plastics have become an intrinsic part of our lives and many people are unaware of how much we use, or how it continues to affect our marine life, climate, and economies,” says Evans, who sees the festival as a platform for new ideas and discussions that could help create a carbon-neutral economy.

That’s why he is excited about a new, thought-provoking installation in the grand entrance of the Victoria & Albert Museum launched by the London Design Festival with renowned architect Sam Jacob in collaboration with SAP. The installation explores the role of design and technology in reducing ocean plastics, in direct response to current predictions that forecast a higher amount of waste than marine life in the sea by 2050.

Rethinking the Global Plastics System

Titled Sea Things, the installation comprises a large-scale two-way mirrored cube suspended above visitors with an animated motion graphic internally reflected to an infinity that seems both as wide as the ocean and as large as the challenges we face.

The impactful space is designed to transport visitors through a digital and physical manifestation of the global single-use plastics crisis.

Evoking a powerful sense of emotion, visitors can come away feeling empowered with a better understanding of their role, alongside technology and design, in making the world a more sustainable place.

“There is an urgent need to completely rethink the global plastics system, and design plays a key role,” says Evans. “For every plastic product, designers must consider its full lifetime journey and include the product’s future use in the design.”

London Design Festival: Sea Things installation
Click to enlarge. Render courtesy of Sam Jacob Studio.

The installation aligns with the “Plastics Cloud” project at SAP, which leverages the power of technology to turn the tide on ocean plastics. The goal is to collect existing and live data from across the plastics supply chain in order to spark new ideas for waste reduction and create the digital infrastructure that will improve the economics of the global plastics system as well as increase the after-use value of plastics.

Jens Amail, managing director of SAP UK & Ireland, explains, “SAP’s purpose from day one has been to enable organizations to create positive economic, social, and environmental impact through our technology. A fundamental part of that mission is our commitment to a world of zero waste.”

In a recent interview with ERP Today, Amail explained that  with 77 percent of the world’s transaction revenue touching an SAP system, the company has an obligation to help design a sustainable future for the next generations.

Evoking Emotion to Drive Action

Like Evans, Amail believes the Sam Jacob installation will help convey the absolute necessity for rebuilding our plastic waste system.

“We want visitors to feel emotionally invested in our journey to make the world run better and improve people’s lives,” he says, and goes on to explain that companies have a powerful role in creating life changing innovation to help achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). “The ‘Plastics Cloud’ is part of that commitment. We need to find a better way to use data. There’s so much information being generated within the plastics supply chain, but there’s no single source of access for that information. We hope the ‘Plastics Cloud’ will serve as another piece of the puzzle to solving the problem of plastic waste.”

The sharpest designers and thinkers will be at the London Design Festival, seeking inspiration and inspiring others. The Sea Things installation at the Victoria & Albert is meant to prompt people to think differently about the role of design in creating a sustainable future. From green buildings to edible straws, innovation and technology can help reduce human impact on the planet.

According to Evans, “Design-focused technology companies like SAP are the ones that can set a benchmark for addressing key sustainability challenges.”