Walking the aisles of K 2019 with industrial designer Chris Lefteri can offer a little different take on the world of plastics.
Lefteri, the head of a London studio and author of nine books on the intersection of industrial design and materials, organized and led the K show's first specialized design tours.
He guided small groups of both designers and those interested in the topic around the show floor on 90-minute tours, highlighting innovations and key themes in plastic materials.
The talks mixed the practical — like pointing out materials companies that work closely with the design community and highlighting advancements in recycled and bio-based materials — with some riffs on the psychology of living in a world full of plastics.
"We all want to be relieved of the guilt of consumerism," he told the group at one point on an Oct. 20 morning tour.
But it wasn't a sermon, or a critique of plastics. Lefteri talked about how he evaluated all kinds of materials for their benefits in three areas — functional, sensorial and emotional — and he came across as an admirer of the versatility and contributions of plastics.
He said he had been "filled with such a buzz about what was here" at his first K show in 2003 and the resources available to designers, so he set out to build stronger links between the plastics industry and his community.
This is the third time his company, Chris Lefteri Design Ltd., worked with the K fair organizers on programs at the show but the first time they have organized these tours.
"We're in this globally unique event, which is the best way to understand plastic," he said. "It's impossible for me to get across the impact that plastics has had on the planet."
"When plastic was first mass-produced, it changed the world," he said. "It changed the way the world looked. It made the world colorful. It gave us the opportunity for choice, we could create products very easily and cheaply."
But like at seemingly every other event at the show, Lefteri noted the environmental questions for plastics.
"Today, its definition of its future is not so optimistic," Lefteri said. "It's a very different and very challenging perspective."
Lefteri guided the group to booths of materials makers, including Beologic NV Inc., Dow Chemical, Ineos Styrolution, Braskem SA and BASF SE.
To the designers, companies talked about their offerings around recycled content and non-fossil fuel-based products.
Eike Jahnke, who works in product management standards for ABS for Ineos, for example, told the tour that his company is investing heavily in recycled content and researching chemical recycling technologies for harder-to-handle products like PS yogurt cups and turn them back into new plastic.
José Augusto Viveiro, sales director for renewable chemicals in the Americas for Braskem, noted how the company's PE and EVA made from sugarcane captures carbon dioxide with each kilogram of resin manufactured.
"What we are seeing from the United Nations and countries is that carbon taxation will come," he said.