Proper solutions for the proper future

Proper solutions for the proper future

In 2018 Armenia's first sustainable design lab, Proper Plastic, was founded. The company innovatively addresses plastic pollution and waste management, by converting waste plastic materials into commercially viable products while raising environmental awareness. “Proper Plastic” is another chapter for shaping a new mindset for the society in Armenia, leading them care for nature and environment.

Text : Ani Yavrents    Photo : Proper company

 

Marianna Vardanyan, the co-founder of Proper, states that it all started back then in 2016, when the crew came up with a vital idea of building a bridge between creative work and social impact. Despite the fact that growing your own company can be quite challenging, but it allows to create a ‘climate of influence’ here in Armenia. A few examples of such efforts are organising Armenia’s first Social Design Summit, establishing Proper Plastic sustainable design lab and organising PechaKucha Yerevan Nights.

One of the most vital challenges that the world faces every single day is the rapid intrusion into non-biodegradable waste. According to the United Nations, international plastic production has ballooned nearly 300 times in the last 65 years. A majority of wasted plastic makes it into the global water stream, eventually leading to our oceans where it forms massive, immortal islands of trash. To fight that you need to be creative.

Proper Plastic is currently researching and exploring ways to create long term sustainable design products from single use plastic. The company works in 3 directions mainly: upcycling, education, community-building.

 

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Social Design Summit was the first one of its kind to bring together speakers from six countries to discuss how cross-disciplinary collaboration, digital tools and practical approaches can all combine with design thinking to deliver real and lasting social change. PechaKucha Nights is a global network of 1,200 cities holding themed presentation events. It has a simple presentation format where people show 20 images, each for 20 seconds. The images advance automatically and you talk along to the images. PechaKucha nights are one of those focal points of the link between creative youngsters and unexplored information.

Some of the topics covered during PechaKucha nights are social innovation, applying best practices from business and tech on public governance, designing more human-centered cities, improving innovation ecosystem in Armenia, the future of modern parenting and more. On 2018, PechaKucha hosted an event “Living Green,” bringing together self-starters who made an active difference to improving the environment. This was the first step of turning “green initiatives” into real actions.

Green Initiatives: Zero-Waste Pavilion designed with snkh studio

 

But what makes Marianna and her colleagues even more proud, is creating new products: “We are collecting type 2 HDPE plastic (high density polyethylene). So our first prototype was an eco table, as we call it, a smart eco table, which is equipped with two solar panels.” The table was exhibited at the UNDP Green Initiative Urban installation, the first zero-waste installation. ‘Green Initiatives’ is a series of events, installations and artworks based on thinking, going and living green. It was designed to inspire people to make positive changes to how we use the Earth’s resources, with the focus on three vital areas: Climate Change, Loss of Biodiversity, and Soil Degradation. The space was divided into several places. The ‘Green Pavilion’ created in cooperation with SNKH architectural studio, was a big, open air “apartment” on Northern Avenue that gave the opportunity to examine the sustainable lifestyle of the future, by standing in the present. Some of ‘rooms’ of this open air apartment demonstrated furniture made from upcycled plastic. The visitors had a chance to recharge their devices from a solar panel and etc.

Smart Eco-Table made from recycled plastic

 

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In the 1960s, in the UK, a lot of designers came together to sign a manifesto, covering their vision: the design industry should serve wider topics than advertising and selling products. Thus, the main notion of signing the manifesto was to put more effort into wider realms like social, environmental, health and other aspects of the economy. Nowadays, after 60 years, Marianna still notes that there’s a perception in Armenia that creative industries are either for leisure or for commercial and advertising work. So since the very beginning, for the agency it was important to work with clients that have their own positive impact in Armenia.

PechaKucha Yerevan

 

“We started experimenting with different formats: doing workshops for younger designers and trying to explore how we can integrate this capacity and the potential of creative industry to address wider social issues,” Marianna says.

Throughout 2018 Proper company has been working with UNDP’s environmental department, organizing public awareness campaigns, covering topics like biodiversity, soil degradation and climate change, which led them to the realization of the huge scale of environmental catastrophes that the world is facing today. Moreover, the UN has estimated that people only have 17 years to tackle climate change and after that the actions will not be reversible.

Zanazan Alphabet magnet set by Proper Company

 

Accordingly, Marianna claims “So basically there’s just 17 years left and learning about these factors of biodiversity, soil degradation, climate change and also energy efficiency - and also doing work around waste management and waste prevention, had led us to start our own startup, ‘Proper Plastic’.”

 

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Marianna mentions that this spring they have teamed up with Global Shapers Yerevan Hub and Revolve Consulting, to organize a public event for school children to educate them on the principles of circular economy and waste prevention.

Nearly 200 students, from 5 public and private schools were participating in these one-hour workshops in their schools, which was then followed by gathering in Mashtots Park and doing color separation, which is the first phase of the upcycling process.

“Sustainable Design for a Better Future” – this is what makes the company grow, no matter how hard the challenges may be. “Proper Plastic” seems to be the first step to an eco-friendly environment normalizing the notion of caring about nature.

The aim of the project was to raise awareness and understanding of the problems caused by plastic misuse, encourage and support others to become “Green Heroes,” empower kids and young people to believe they can make significant change, even at an individual level.

Despite the technical and logistical challenges, Proper Plastic company continues to grow shaping the ideal figure of networking communities. For this moment, the company is in the phase of experimenting with materials and moulds, aiming to build long lasting items.

Marianna Vardanyan (in the middle) during PechaKucha Yerevan

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