Q & R to award winning designer

29-year-old Ghazaleh from Iran recently won an award for her graduation project. Here she reveals her ideas behind it.

Why did you come up with the idea to design a food recycler?
This idea first came to my mind while I was pursuing my M.A. in Industrial Design at the Kolding Design School. When I moved to Denmark I found out a lot of food mostly at the consumption stage, in homes, restaurants, canteens and retailers are going to waste. For someone like me who is coming from another part of the world(Iran), this was hard to see and believe. I was talking to my friends and family about it, “oh my God! You do not have any clue how much food is wasted here every day”. After seeing the difference in food waste generation compared to my home country, I focused my research on the global food challenge and designing industrial-scale sustainable solutions. The idea developed into my master’s thesis, I seek to better understand how industrial design can play an active role to tackle the challenge of food waste from different perspectives and approaches. The day I started working on this project, I had no idea I would come up with a product such as ComposTech and the new strategy to recycle and reduce the food waste. My idea led to the design of the ComposTech system in order to decrease the current rate of food waste generation. ComposTech food recycler is a new brand of high-tech kitchen appliance to reduce food waste by over two-third its original volume through a fully automated process.

The result is ready-to-use fertilizer within less than 48 hours. ComposTech is the easy-to-use solution for sending less food to the landfill, and more to the lands. Beyond the composting system, I have designed a gamified web-based application so that ComposTech owners can easily keep track of their fertilizer production and earn money by selling it back to the company. The goal of my products and services is to transform food waste into a valuable resource, while educating communities and inspiring sustainable action. The ComposTech product cycle allows for owners to forego future costs for traditional food waste disposal companies, while engaging with their community, all while earning money for their sustainable action. This is a completely new way of managing food waste, compared to traditional food waste collection systems.

Where did you find inspiration?
I believe that solutions to global challenges are all around us. I always admired Biomimicry Design, it can shape sustainable design and innovation in a variety of fields and catalyze a new era in design and business that benefits both people and the planet. During my research I found out that the process of turning waste into compost (organic fertilizer) is almost the same as the human digestive system. I inspired by the human digestive system to design the technology and mechanic inside the composter. At the first stage of my design process, I used the vermicomposting method to recycle the waste, it means using various species of worms during the composting process. Although after some time I redesigned my concept and implemented the Aerobic Composting method, (using the heat, water and oxygen in the process) for my machine, the current aesthetics of the ComposTech is completely inspired by the earth worms. Earthworms are tube-shaped and their segments enable them to move and breath. ComposTech is also tube-shaped with horizontal segments that enable the machine to breath, for better air circulation. These segments also make the machine stronger and more flexible in its movements. I always admired Scandinavian modern design, it can perfectly marry practicality with sophisticated design. I wanted to design a domestic composter that would be desirable inside homes as a new white goods (kitchen gadgets), in modern kitchens. And what else could be better than a nice simple Scandinavian design for the modern kitchens.

Can your food recycler solve the food waste we see today?
I believe that we have become a throwaway society. Leftovers from a dinner out get tossed into the trash. It is not just about recycling or composting, it is about refusing, returning, redesigning, repairing and rethinking. I wanted to illustrate my own idea and strategy to change the consumer experience and behavior related to food waste, increasing sustainability in the food cycle and motivating long-lasting change for these associated behaviors. As a designer, I realized that making an object for recycling the food waste in not really enough to cope with a complex issue as food challenge. I wanted to go beyond and find a way to motivate a new sustainable behavior. My new challenge was to design a service with a strategy for persuasion and education to change attitudes towards food waste.

Who is your target group?
The user can be everyone as a consumer that in somehow are connected to the food system; the target group is therefore very wide. The possible location for it could be everywhere that we can find food waste, at home, canteens, restaurants, etc. The possible sender are the institutions, companies and municipalities, the recipient are the global consumers; especially in high-income countries due to their large amount of food waste at the consumption stage.

Will CompostTech be produced?
After graduation, based on this idea, I started my own design studio which focused on developing products and services designed to increase the immersion of sustainable action and thoughtfulness throughout society to make the world a better place. At this moment the product and services are in the final stage of design and we we already have potential customers who are interested in purchasing the technology once we begin production. I am currently working with my team to apply for funds and grants to produce and validate prototypes for the composter and its accessories, mobile app and website. During this validation stage, we will also be conducting market research and securing business development prospects for the product launch. After that the Compostech products can be moved to market.

What have you learned from this design process?
I realized that most important modern problems are complex rather than complicated. Complex problems are messier and more ambiguous in nature; they are more connected to other problems. Tackling new controversial issues such as “global food challenge” require many individuals and many global institutions to change behavior on many different levels.

How do you feel abour sustainability?
I always wanted to be a designer to help the world make smarter decisions, not just to make it pretty. I am an Industrial Designer who loves to engage in new design challenges to save the planet also interested in sustainability and green design. I love our planet Earth. I believe we should be aware of the future and the planet we are going to leave to the next generations. Global warming and climate change are real threats to our planet and we as a human being are all responsible. As a youth and human being, I have the responsibilities to my planet. I want to reduce my own carbon footprint via eco-friendly activities for the sustainability of our planet. As a designer, I am trying to do my best to save our lovely planet and make the world a better place.