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Plastic and the kettle of the future at Gdynia Design Days 2022

14.06.22|6 min

We live in the age of plastic. In Europe alone, 58 million tonnes of plastic are produced annually. Twice as much plastic waste is produced in the world than two decades ago, and only 9% of it is recycled. Most ends up in landfills, seas and oceans.*

The story of one kettle. Future Lab by Ergodesign is an exhibition prepared by Ergodesign for the Gdynia Design Days (2-10 July 2022). We are going to present a narrative about responsible design in the spirit of circularity in the building of the Pomeranian Science and Technology Park.

We will invite visitors to reflect on the carefree use of plastic, and the starting point for that reflection will be a kettle – an everyday product made from plastic. We will try to see if plastic, the material it is made from, is really bad for the environment. And whether the product could be put on a circular cycle, so as to extend or modify its service life.

We will also ask about the future of kettles and whether we are actually still going to need them in the face of the growing problems with the availability of water.

What you will learn from this article:

  • Why the first thing we did when designing the exhibition was putting a Zelmer Crystal kettle into pieces
  • What the kettles of tomorrow could look like
  • What zones the exhibition is composed of
  • What GDD accompanying events we will participate in

Deconstructing a kettle

The legendary Crystal kettle was designed by Ergodesign for Zelmer in 1996 and is still available for sale. To this day, it is often found in homes, offices and institutions. Although the kettles are extremely durable and many people have been using them to boil water for over a decade, sadly many of them will ultimately end up in the trash one day.

The worlds of design and consumption changed remarkably during those more than 30 years. Careful consideration of man’s impact on the environment has taken the place of carefree admiration for plastic.

Today, instead of a linear take-use-throw away economic approach, our thinking is increasingly inclined towards a take-consume-reuse approach. We want to change the world with designs made in the spirit of circularity.   



For the purposes of the exhibition, we analysed the circularity of the Zelmer Crystal kettle based on the Ergodesign method. We started by breaking down the product into parts. When assessing the circular potential of a product, it is essential to take all parameters and details into account.

As a result of such a breakdown, we got data about the number of components making up the kettle, materials those components are made of, how they are bonded together and how many pieces have been made. Conclusions from this section provide key tenets for designing prototypes of new versions of the kettle – the kettle of tomorrow.

What the kettles of tomorrow could look like?

We will present our ideas for how to make a kettle more circular in one of the exhibition zones. And there is a reason why we titled that zone “everything circulates”. Products, their components and raw materials can circulate in a closed loop – just like in nature. We realise there is no single universal recipe for a fully circular product. User preferences, capabilities of manufacturers and available technologies are just some of the factors influencing how we design a product. Therefore, in this section we will propose five kettle concepts, each of which is circular in a different way.

As a result, a product of the past becomes a product of tomorrow. The fundamental elements which can help close the cycle are new materials and services.

Six zones to reflect on    

In addition to the circular kettle zone, several other separate zones can be visited at the exhibition. You can start visiting the exhibition The History of One Kettle. Future Lab by Ergodesign from zone 01_ care_free plastic, where you will travel back in time to Poland in the 1990s. As you view photos from that period, you will discover the perspective of both a designer and a user in a world of consumption gathering momentum.

The next zone 02_anthropocene deposits makes you reflect on the carefree use of plastic. Here, you will find an installation of gabion baskets filled with plastic waste. Then, you will proceed to zone 03 matter of atoms. Here, you can see a Crystal kettle which has been taken into parts. Inside a designer’s laboratory, you get a chance to see the components the product was made of.

The next zones offer a journey into the future. In zone 04_ everything circulates, you can find out how to make a kettle more circular, to proceed to the next one called layers of future(s) for an even more distant perspective of up to 100 years from now. We try to predict what conditions will prevail on Earth based on scientific knowledge and trends in various fields: geopolitics, engineering, anthropology, art, literature and the various natural sciences. By visualizing the consequences of industry and human activities, as well as their ramifications for nature, we can clearly see in what circumstances we may find ourselves living in some time.

The tour of the exhibition ends in zone 06_self-reflection. Here, you have an opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at circular designing. We will invite you to reflect on your own consumption habits or your approach to design or business, using the diagnostic tools available on site.

What else is there to do except the exhibition?  

The Gdynia Design Days festival is not only about exhibitions. It is also a chance for art lovers, design enthusiasts and entrepreneurs to meet in one place.

On July 3, we will all meet at an original lecture Designing for durability. A new look at product life cycle by Ryszard Poniedzialek, COO at Ergodesign. During the lecture, we will discuss designing for durability and how it fits in with the idea of sustainable development. We will also talk about “closing the circuit”, i.e. the known strategies for designing durable products and what determines their success.

On July 8, as part of Design Talk Business, Krzysztof Bogomaz, Head of the Strategy Development Department and Maciej Maciejewski, Future(s) Strategist at Ergodesign will run a Crisis of Imagination and the Future of Water workshop. The workshop will be based on Ergodesign’s proprietary methodology Future(s) Change by design, which focuses on studying and designing sustainable innovations and solutions for the future.
Workshop participants will discover the key phases of building innovations of the future and learn about the method of building various foresight-based scenarios – forecasts about problems, behaviours and needs of future users.


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New OECD report, © Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, 22 February 2022, https://www.oecd.org/environment/plastic-pollution-is-growing-relentlessly-as-waste-management-and-recycling-fall -short.htm

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