Need to Know
19 : 02 : 19

A new method for turning plastic waste into energy, Indian app Swiggy delivers anything in under an hour, the contradictory eating habits of Generation Z.

Desert X uses spectacle to explore sociopolitical issues

Revolutions installation view by Nancy Baker Cahill, Desert X 2019. Photography by Lance Gerber, courtesy of Desert X
Desert X installation View, John Gerrard, Western Flag, 2019, photo by Lance Gerber, courtesy of Desert X.
Specter installation view by Sterling Ruby, Desert X 2019. Photography by Lance Gerber, courtesy of Desert X

Palm Springs – The biennial outdoor art festival returns with a series of conceptual installations set in the Coachella Valley.

Spanning 50 miles across the desert, the second iteration of Desert X brings together 19 artists. Their work explores ‘a range of ecological, environmental and social issues that have been driving conversations about our role in the Anthropocene’, according to Neville Wakefield, artistic director of Desert X. This year’s site-specific projects include a broader range of media with an emphasis on interactive, simulated and digital elements.

Highlights include Nancy Baker Cahill’s augmented reality artworks, which reflect on man-made phenomena and can only be viewed through a smartphone app, and John Gerrard’s computer-generated simulation of a smoking flag, projected using LED lights. Sterling Ruby’s fluorescent monolith, meanwhile, suggests something removed or erased from the landscape. By engaging visitors with spectacular, thought-provoking viewing experiences, these works are intended to offer unexpected perspectives on sociopolitical topics. For more, explore Experience 2020.

Harley-Davidson imagines electric commuter bikes

Harley-Davidson, US Harley-Davidson, US
Harley-Davidson, US Harley-Davidson, US

Colorado – The heritage motorcycle company has unveiled two electric concept bikes that re-imagine the Harley-Davidson for the urban consumer.

Revealed at the extreme sports event X Games Aspen, the bikes hint at an electric future and new target audience for Harley-Davidson. Both bikes are lightweight and aimed at urban commuters, with one model taking inspiration from dirt bikes and the other reminiscent of 50cc scooters with BMX details.

Although the bikes are prototypes at present, the brand says that if developed, riders would not need a motorcycle licence to use them. With this in mind, it has introduced a simple twist-and-go throttle in place of the clutch and gears, while compact electric batteries that power the bikes can be removed and charged easily at home.

As well as reformulating its brand values for the future generation, Harley-Davidson is helping pioneer a more sustainable way of commuting around cities. To see why brands should be joining the clean air conversation, read our vertical on Smog Life.

New technology turns plastic waste into clean fuels

Indiana – A team of researchers at Purdue University have developed a chemical process to turn soft plastics into an efficient energy source.

The conversion process works on non-recyclable polypropylene waste – such as grocery bags, toys and cling film – which, according to figures published in Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering, accounts for about 23% of plastic sent to landfill sites. Hydrothermal liquefication, as the technology is called, involves heating pellets of polypropylene at high temperatures before dissolving them in water. The by-products can then be used as oil, gas or solvents.

The researchers believe this process could be used on 90% of the world’s polypropylene waste. With the UN reporting that a mere 9% of plastic produced over the past 65 years has been recycled, converting excess plastic into a valuable new resource has the potential to significantly reduce associated risks to the environment and human health. In our Material Far Futures report, we explore the positive impact of such transformative material science.

Super-Synthetics by Maria Idicula Kurian, London

This Indian app delivers anything in one hour

Swiggy Stores, India

Gurugaon, India – Delivery app Swiggy has worked with local retailers and brands to expand its remit beyond take-away food.

The app, which until recently focused solely on food delivery, has launched a new offering, Swiggy Stores. Customers can order anything from meat to toothpaste and health supplements to be delivered in under one hour. To do this, the brand has worked with 3,500 stores around the city of Gurugaon.

‘The convenience of Swiggying food from your favourite restaurants has become ubiquitous. Yet, for some of our other daily needs, we spend countless hours navigating through traffic, in long queues at supermarkets or drawing up exhaustive weekly to-buy lists,’ says Swiggy co-founder and CEO Sriharsha Majety. ‘Think of Swiggy Stores as the superpower that connects you to every store, retailer or brand in the city.’

By delivering anything, no matter how small, in under an hour, Swiggy is catering for Indian consumers’ increasing appetite for Convenience Culture.

Stat: Generation Z are hungry for convenience

Generation Z are hungry for convenience foods. Not only are they regularly snacking, but they rely on ready meals, according to a new report by market research company Packaged Facts. The study found that today’s 18–24-year-olds are more likely (74%) than their fellow Millennials (66%) to says they often snack between meals. In addition, at mealtimes they are also more likely to opt for easy-to-prepare options such as microwave dinners and frozen breakfast dishes. Yet, despite their reliance on convenience, these young adults remain health-conscious, with many looking for organic or natural options.

‘Many Gen Z young adults are attracted to easy-to-prepare meals as well as snacking,’ says David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts. ‘Therefore, there exists ample opportunity for food marketers of frozen prepared meals and packaged prepared food to convert adults under the age of 25 into loyal life-long customers.’

Although frozen food has traditionally been viewed as low cost and of low nutritional value, brands are creating increasingly healthy frozen meals that appeal to health- and convenience-chasing eaters.

Thought-starter: Can re-usable packaging appeal to luxury consumers?

Beauty and personal care brands are upgrading the eco-friendly element of refillable packaging to be a little more luxurious.

Luxury beauty packaging has long been dictated by rules of aesthetics and practicality. A product needed to be functionally packaged, but it also had to feel luxurious in weight, texture and tone. As a result, the sustainability of the packaging was often an afterthought.

But the beauty industry is now being confronted with its environmental footprint, in the same way that the food and fashion sectors have been challenged in recent years. Combined with the fact that consumers are more concerned about plastic pollution, this means beauty brands are finally rethinking their packaging.

Personal care brand Myro, for instance, is rebranding refillables with its all-natural deodorant. ‘It was important to create a design that the user would want to keep on their counter rather than tucked away in a drawer,’ explains Visibility co-founder Sina Sohrab. ‘We wanted to create a whole new typology for this kind of hygiene product.’

Read the full Refined Refillables microtrend here.

By Humankind, US
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