The Singapore exhibition reframing waste as a resource

·2-min read
"Drown" by Kllymrck is on show at Singapore's National Design Centre, as part of an exhibition called "The Waste Refinery."

Waste is everywhere. It's inherent to our modes of production and consumption. So much so that the National Design Centre in Singapore is dedicating an exhibition to waste from November 6. It showcases all kinds of ideas for building a more sustainable future.

With the COP26 climate conference in full swing in Glasgow, Singapore's National Design Centre is devoting part of its program to waste management -- a hot topic in the city-state, where nearly 5.88 million tonnes of solid waste were generated in 2020, according to figures from the Singapore National Environment Agency.

Faced with the scale of the issue, the National Design Centre is bringing together several Singaporean and international designers who are addressing the problem of waste management, in an exhibition titled "The Waste Refinery." The aim is to explore how waste can be transformed and reframed as "an abundant resource rather than an unwanted material."

The works on display illustrate how waste can have a second life and become useful products for everyday life. Such is the case of the "temporary handbags" from the Berlin-based company Sonnet155. These are crafted with a leather material made from fruit peels and short cellulose fibers. Plus, the material dissolves after a certain period of use and can then be used to fertilize plants. The product offers a way of rethinking sustainability as a pleasure rather than a burden, according to Sonnet155.

Extending the life of waste is also at the heart of Roger & Sons' work. This Singaporean family business uses trees that would usually be discarded or chipped to make furniture and home decor items. In the same vein, the Lithuanian designer Agne Kucerenkaite uses zinc ash to create porcelain works, glazed with a pigment made from the metals present in these industrial remnants.

"'The Waste Refinery shows how creative ingenuity can benefit communities by diverting waste from landfills and generating new revenue streams, while transforming raw materials into precious objects. We hope that this exhibition at the National Design Centre will inspire visitors to rethink how we prescribe value to objects and aesthetics, and see the endless potential of using design to achieve a more sustainable lifestyle," said Mark Wee, executive director of the DesignSingapore Council, which commissioned the exhibition.

"The Waste Refinery" runs November 6 to January 16, 2022, at Singapore's National Design Centre.

Caroline Drzewinski

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