Plastic Not Guilty but a Source of Creativity

Milanese gallery owner and design doyenne Rossana Orlandi and her daughter, Nicoletta Orlandi Brugnoni believe that waste can be a source of great inspiration and through their initiative Ro Plastic Prize they challenge and inspire the design community to think differently about how objects are made. The RoGUILTLESSPLASTIC exhibition in Doha at the Msheireb was organised as part of the #QatarCreates programme organised by M7 and supported by Qatar Museums.

The ideators and curators of RoGUILTLESSPLASTIC, Rossana Orlandi and Nicoletta Orlandi Brugnoni are explaining the products, mingling amongst the visitors at the special exhibition at the beautiful M7 at Msheireb, being presented for the first time in the Middle East. The RoGUILTLESSPLASTIC exhibition features the artworks of creatives from across the globe who were invited to reuse, recycle and upcycle different kinds of waste by exploring their endless possibilities of transformation.

As Rossana, the design doyenne flits through the crowd in her distinctive restrained demure, its Nicoletta who engages with everyone, as she explains the creative ways in which designers seem to have found a solution to reusing plastics.

We all know plastics for the harm it is for the environment because it is non bio degradable, harmful to the soil and takes hundreds of years to degrade or decompose.

But Nicoletta disagrees to this thought of victiming the waste product instead she says, “Plastics are not the culprit, it is how we use it. We use plastics to be thrown away in dumps and thus create a panic out of something that can be used as a resource. This is why we wanted to educate everyone, to show them that what we once considered a curse can be a resource, and that is the reason behind the name, “RO Guiltlessplastics”.”

Recalling the origin of this design initiative, Rossana Orlandi and her daughter Nicoletta Orlandi Brugnoni recall, “We started all of this in 2018, moved out of the sheer desire to avoid feeling helpless in the face of the issue that the world was facing at that time: plastic. We didn’t know exactly what to do, but we certainly knew what we didn’t want to do: simply be one more complaining voice. With passion, we dedicated ourselves to spreading the message on which GUILTLESSPLASTIC is based: plastic is not at fault. Instead, it is the abuse and misuse of it which has caused such a profound environmental tragedy. We began to involve many of the designers who are friends of the gallery, as well as those who are involved in our work, by asking them to conceive designs with the ‘reuse, recycle and upcycle of plastic’ in mind.”

While researchers are constantly developing biodegradable polymers, what can be done to lessen the burden of oil-based plastics on the ecosystems, she asks. Today plastic trash is one of the biggest resources available: plastic has huge possibilities and potentials if transformed and hence embracing the power of design.

“Ro Plastic Prize wishes to unite the design community in the challenge to use plastic waste before it reaches the waterways and to promote the next generation of design: plastic re-using, recycling and upcycling are the challenges that this prize wishes to bring to the global design community,” says Nicoletta as she passionately shows products from plastics that would make the design community proud, from artforms to creative design products from beautiful kitchenware, textiles and furniture and even construction materials like tiles.

The exhibition includes winners and runnersup in the first three competitions held since 2019 in categories including emotional communication, responsible innovation urban and public furniture design and packaging solutions and more.

Arsenio Rodriguez whose work is on display at the exhibition is involved for more than 20 years in recycling art projects. He lives and works close to the sea in Cadiz, Spain. To create greater awareness for the global waste plastic problem and the plastic pollution he creates magical ‘underwater worlds’ from the materials that are destroying the seas in a rapid pace. The plastics that wash ashore are collected by the artist and are processed in his art works.

Álvaro Catalán de Ocón and GANGES rug that won the Ro PLASTIC PRIZE 2021 in the Urban Public Furniture Design category in Milan.

There are other projects that Nicoletta is hugely inspired by, like the carpet spread out before the entry to the exhibition, The Ganges rug, the first piece of the Plastics Rug collection designed by Álvaro Catalán de Ocón for GAN, which was awarded the Ro PLASTIC PRIZE 2021 in the Urban Public Furniture Design category in Milan. The carpet traces the tributaries of the river Ganges in India and is handcrafted through PET yarn made from collecting plastics from around the river banks, a total of 72,845 tonnes were taken, cleaned and shredded and then used to create this unique piece.The exhibition is a key component of the March edition of #QatarCreates, a dynamic national movement that promotes and celebrates Qatar’s diverse cultural scene and boosts the creative economy through exchange, dialogue and collaboration within the fields of art, architecture, fashion, design, and digital culture. M7 is the epicentre of programming for #QatarCreates.

Maha Ghanim Al Sulaiti, Director of M7, said: “M7 is delighted to host the inaugural Middle East edition of RoGUILTLESSPLASTIC during the week of #QatarCreates. This special project aligns with our mission to act as a catalyst for creativity and to increase awareness of waste and how design can be a part of the solution to this global problem. We believe the Doha edition will serve as a source of inspiration for creatives on how to develop and adapt design concepts that are both sustainable and contribute towards building a strong creative ecosystem in Qatar.”

The Ro Plastic Prize, for which Qatar Museums’ chairperson Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad Al Thani served as honorary president of the international jury in 2021, forms part of RoGUILTLESSPLASTIC. The international competition aims to encourage the design community to use plastic waste to develop the future of design: plastic re-using, recycling, and upcycling.