The circular economy – in which waste does not exist and raw materials are reused over and over – is in need of a strong push, according to Leonne Cuppen. She links talented designers to companies in order to realise this circular economy. Her way of doing this is by organising exhibitions. During CWF2019 she organises an exhibition in which circular possibilities are shown based on a surprising product: used coffee grounds.
The larger industrial companies do have the will to co-operate on developing a circular economy, says Leonne Cuppen. But questions on how fast they intend to do so and how they can manage it, still remain unanswered. “A great deal of ground can be won when it comes to large industrial companies. They don’t hire creative young talents.” Cuppen intends to change this by herself. “My goal is to link talented people to the industry. I work on this by, for example, organising exhibitions where people can see firsthand what these talents are capable of and what possibilities already exist. This way, they get to see the added value of design.
‘’The role of design has shifted from “making beautiful things” to a focus on origins, the process and society’
Cuppen, who started out as an interior and product designer almost thirty years ago and is now using her experience to form co-operatives because – in her own words – ‘that is how you actually bring about change’, words it as follows on her website: “The role of design has shifted from “making beautiful things” to a focus on origins, the process and society. It is not only about savings, but about returning and adding things to the ecosystem; to utilise the knowledge and expertise of designers to tackle sustainability and social issues.”
A number of companies are already setting the example. In fact, Cuppen knows a company that promised back in 1994 to reduce its negative environmental impact: Interface, a producer of carpet tiles and floors. This company aims to make all its operations fully circular by 2020 and is well on its way to reach that objective.
Used coffee grounds will become more valuable than coffee itself
It is not entirely coincidental that Cuppen mentions this specific company. Two years ago, Interface asked her to help set up a community of like-minded people. The result of this is the Interface Design Lab, a community that, among other things, aims to give young talent a chance to get in touch with industry and promote their work. In light of this, Lena Winterink and Lotte Gulpers, both talented designers, were given the task to apply Interface’s production equipment or subprocess in an innovative, sustainable and circular way and to visualise the theme of ‘Positive for People and Planet’ in a contemporary manner in the course of this project.
Change people’s perspectives
During CWF2019, Cuppen wants to ‘change the perspective of a large audience’. For that purpose, she will move a part of the exhibition that was on display during the Dutch Design Week to the Parktheater, highlighting a product that everybody is familiar with and that appeals to almost as many: coffee. This is because the residual product of old coffee grounds can be used to produce soap and hair products, as raw material for shoes and furniture, to produce notebook covers or to produce lemonade with coffee flavour. And mushroom farms use coffee grounds to cultivate mushrooms because it is cheap and does not have to be extracted from soil. That’s right: waste is actually material. Used coffee grounds will become more valuable than coffee itself.
‘If we link talented designers to government and industry, beautiful things can happen’
“A large amount of products is still being undervalued by many people and companies”, Cuppen thinks. “I want to help change this and individuals can also contribute to this. However, this process should be sped up; it is progressing too slowly at the moment. This means that governments, companies, as well as you and me should all do their part. It needs to be a joint effort. It would already be a great accomplishment if we stopped throwing away waste and reused it instead. And if we also link talented designers to government and industry, beautiful things can happen. Beautiful things that are highly necessary.”