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The secrets behind the plastic spoon: a ‘perfect’ design with terrible consequences

Disposable spoons are a scourge on the planet: We use them for a few minutes to scarf down our takeout or ice cream, then toss them out. They end up in a landfill, where they sit for hundreds of years, or in the ocean, poisoning marine life. But a day may soon come when single-use utensils are relics of past.

A new installation at the London Design Biennale helps us imagine this future by presenting hundreds of single-use spoons as if they were already extinct. Designers Peter Eckart and Kai Linke, who created this exhibit, gathered hundreds of spoons from their own collections, artfully arranged them by color and displayed them in glass cases that would typically house fossils or butterfly species at a natural history museum. The plastic spoons are designed to spur a conversation about how even good design can have negative results and the systemic change required to combat this environmental crisis.

In some ways, this exhibit came about by accident. Twenty years ago, Eckhart and Linke each separately started collecting disposable spoons. Both were fascinated by the design of these simple, everyday objects. “Some are really quite beautiful,” Eckhart tells me. “They come in different colors and materials. Some are even made by famous designers, like [Philippe] Starck.”

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