technical textiles

Innovation without circular thinking is not innovation, it’s useless

This semester I have a project revolving around technical textiles and electronics. In itself a really interresting topic with loads of potential. This is the stuff designers dream off: being on the edge of innovation & imagining the future.

BUT there is one major drawback and that is the impact of both technical textiles as well as smart textiles on the environment. We are working with a company and when I asked the company’s designer about this, his answer was that they didn’t think about that when developing these technologies, they make the products and when they become widely used, someone else will start recycling them. And although he conceeded that the future of design is circular design, it was clear that it isn’t a priority because it’s harder to do. And this is still the case for a lot of companies.

It has never been more clear to me than now that I could never willingly develop products that completely ignore our environment, not even when the project is as interesting as this one. It baffles me that we can work around innovation, around projects and technologies that are still 5 or 10 or 20 years in the making and not think about how they will affect our planet. 

We as designers/engineers/… are privileged, we can take our imagination and turn it into reality. We, quite literally, determine the future. But with that privilege comes a great responsibility. So in my eyes any innovation that does not include circular thinking is not innovation, it’s just useless design. Making a product green shouldn’t be optional, it should be mandatory, as obvious as making it functional.