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"Plastic is a design failure" says designer Cyrill Gutsch

Parley for the Oceans founder Cyrill Gutsch said that designers must reevaluate their relationship with plastic and collaborate with nature at a talk filmed by Dezeen for Global Design Forum in partnership with SAP.

Gutsch, founder and CEO of the environmental organisation Parley for the Oceans, addressed the importance of the design community taking action in order to combat plastic waste.

The talk, which took place at The Standard High Line Hotel during design festival NYCxDesign, was part of Global Design Forum's The Future of Packaging symposium.

Cyrill Gutsch, founder of Parley for the Oceans
Cyrill Gutsch is the founder of Parley for the Oceans

"It's very empowering to see the problems are caused by you," said Gutsch. He described how Parley for the Oceans was founded from "the idea to push the creative community into the centre of a revolution".

"Plastic is a design failure, let's just accept it," he added.

Gutsch also acknowledged the difficulty in phasing out plastic completely, saying that suddenly stopping our global plastic footprint would be "nearly impossible".

He challenged the audience to reshape design industry practices and reduce demand for single-use plastic by repurposing existing plastic waste.

"The act of removing plastic from the environment, that is the positive impact," he continued.

Designer Cyrill Gutsch on stage at Global Design Forum
Cyrill Gutsch spoke at Global Design Forum's symposium on the future of packaging

Gutsch spoke about Parley for the Oceans' campaign to intercept and recycle ocean plastic and use that plastic to launch new design campaigns, such as its collaboration with sportswear company Adidas.

"Recycling ends the addiction to virgin plastic – it interrupts the business model of the plastic industry," he said. "A recycling concept that actually works is the nightmare of the plastic industry."

Gutsch also spoke of how designers should avoid packaging entirely by creating "smart, intelligent products."

He continued by saying that "the role of a designer today is to be a collaboration enabler," and to work at the intersection of "cultural change, identity change and eco-innovation."

Global Design Forum hosted the symposium at The Standard, High Line
Global Design Forum hosted the symposium in partnership with SAP at The Standard, High Line in New York City

The symposium is part of Global Design Forum's Circular Design Series, which was devised to encourage the design community to "affect change, provide insights needed to create sustainable and circular packaging design and result in significant and measurable outcomes for industry-wide impact".

Global Design Forum is London Design Festival's curated thought leadership programme. Its flagship event will take place as part of the London Design Festival in September.

Global Design Forum's symposium on 'The Future of Packaging' took place on 23 May 2023 at The Standard High Line Hotel in New York. See Dezeen Events Guide for an up-to-date list of architecture and design events taking place around the world.

Partnership content

This video was produced by Dezeen as part of a partnership with London Design Festival. Find out more about Dezeen partnership content here.