Qualy is a Thai brand that has earned worldwide recognition in the plastic product design world and garnered numerous design excellence accolades throughout the 15 years since its establishment. The key to this astounding success lies not only in the aesthetic and functionality of its products, which seek to bring happiness, comfort, and smiles to consumers, but also in the way of thinking that forms the very foundation of the production and how it fosters collaboration with partners to deliver eco-friendly products that benefit both users and the environment.
All Around Plastics sat down with Design Director and Qualy’s Founder Teerachai Suppameteekulwat to talk about how creativity can be applied to the designing of eco-friendly products.
Q: How do current consumer trends affect the design of plastic products?
Teerachai: This is a consumer-centric era driven by convenience-oriented shopping, with online platforms that enable consumers to make purchases faster. Plastic is featured in every area; it is used as food packaging, and it’s even in clothes in the form of textile fibers. However, on top of that trend is another overarching trend, which is the trend of eco-consciousness. As the impact of the environmental crisis can be felt increasingly acute across the world, organizations are beginning to realize that our world is heading towards inhabitability. As a manufacturer, Qualy started looking for ways to make contributions. That was when we discovered the notion of circular economy, in which consumption goes hand in hand with keeping resources in use for as long as possible, as opposed to the linear economy, in which consumed resources are merely disposed of. Thus, we believe that the circular economy is one of the solutions that can help.
Q: How is the theory of circular economy translated to practice at Qualy?
Teerachai: First, we try to opt for recycled materials, so that we don’t have to use more of new materials. The thing is in the perception of consumers, products made with recycled materials are grade-B or grade-C products or are aesthetically inferior. Thus, as the next step, we have to focus on upcycling, which is the process of increasing the value of these products through design. Accompanying each Qualy product is a story related to a current environmental issue. For example, products that are shaped like sea animals, such as whales, corals, seahorses, and turtles, will come with labels or information signs that inform consumers how marine ecosystems and marine life are harmed by human activity. Another product of ours is in the shape of an iceberg, which conveys the story of how polar ice caps are melting as a result of global warming. In addition to material quality and properties, we seek to elevate our products and turn them into artworks that inspire consumers or at the very least inform them through shape and material choice.
The final part is post-consumer waste management. Our products must be recyclable, so that the materials can be recovered and fed back to the production. This not only creates a closed loop but also obviates the need for virgin materials and saves the energy otherwise required for waste disposal. This is the ideal process that we at Qualy strive to achieve and apply to every design.
Q: What are the challenges of working with recycled materials and incorporating upcycling into the design?
Teerachai: The primary challenge is gaining acceptance and fostering an understanding among consumers regarding imperfections on our products or limited color choices. Therefore, communication is vital. We need to inform our customers that stains or roughness on our products result from the use of recycled materials and are actually what gives them character. It’s a new type of aesthetic created during the manufacturing. These stories allow consumers to see the origin of the raw materials before they became the product in their hands and another kind of beauty that is invisible to the eye but can be felt with the heart. Customers will also develop a positive attitude towards the product and feel that they have contributed to the recycling process. This is considered a big challenge for a business as consumers expect products that have passed quality control and are uniform in quality.
Q: What are your thoughts on the latest collaboration between Qualy and SCG on the use of plastic waste as a material for food waste bins?
Teerachai: We had known SCG’s Design Catalyst Team for a long time. I was interested in food waste management because the key to better plastic recycling lies in separating organic waste from plastic waste. Therefore, I focused my attention on waste problems related to food scraps and got in touch with SCG’s team to find common grounds for collaboration.
We discussed extensively and even considered an ideal scenario where each house could separate and eliminate organic waste with its own grinder, but we decided to start with something simple. That led to a collaboration to produce waste bins specifically and only for food scraps. We chose to use milk pouches as the material because schools could initiate programs that students could participate in by cutting up, rinsing, and drying used milk pouches, so that they were ready to be recycled. The resulting plastic resin would contain the collaboration and dedication of the students. When they see that their efforts are transformed into something that can be used in every house, they will love and understand what they’re doing better. Customers, on the other hand, will also learn about waste separation through the product.
Q: Any final remark for the general reader and business owners in the plastic industry?
Teerachai: For the general reader and consumer, as green products can help close the loop and create real circularity, I would like to encourage everyone to support them to create demand in the market. This will ultimately increase the value of waste and lead to better waste management or more stringent environmental policies in the future. In addition, waste separation at source can help reduce the cost of recycling significantly.
As for entrepreneurs in the plastic industry, we’d like to see discussions and exchanges of opinions as well as encouragement within the community of entrepreneurs. This is something that we need to start doing now. This trend is not only what the the new generation is interested in but it can also generate revenue and help protect the environment sustainably. The circular economy cannot be brought to fruition by any single individual; it takes cooperation to do so. I’d like business owners to set their eyes on the ultimate goal and find partners to collaborate with.
Learn more about Qualy and follow updates at Qualy’s Facebook Page: (www.facebook.com/Qualydesign) or at LINE: @qualydesign