Summer 2017

Living and decaying in the plastic age

At every stage in the lifecycle of a package, design can add complications for recycling. Finding solutions requires industry-wide collaboration

When Plastics by V. E. Yarsley and E. G. Couzens was first published, in 1941, the material was still a novelty. The authors enthusiastically discussed its ‘inexhaustible potential applications’, imagining a shiny, colourful future, far away from the ‘dust and smoke’ of war. They concluded by announcing a second industrial revolution, looking to a time when science would have ‘new powers and resources to create a more beautiful world.' The new spirit of planned scientific control would be expressed by the ‘Plastics Age’.


Top: Plastic bottle found on a Devon beach. Photograph by Peter Clarkson, Thomas Matthews, 2017. Sophie Thomas writes: ‘The bottle, which probably contained motor oil or an industrial cleaner, is made of coloured HDPE (High Density Polyethylene). Judging by the design, deterioration and brittleness of the plastic, this container has probably been in the waste and in the sea for at least twenty years.’ The estimated lifespan of HDPE is 450 years.

Sophie Thomas, designer and founding director, Thomas.Matthews, London

Read the full version in Eye no. 94 vol. 24, 2017


Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It is available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions, back issues and single copies of the latest issue. You can see what Eye 94 looks like at Eye before You Buy on Vimeo.

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