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The Waste Refinery at National Design Centre shines the spotlight on local and international creators designing with waste as the starting point

7 min read

Opening amid COP26, the exhibition reframes waste as an abundant resource.

Singapore, 5 November 2021 – It’s everywhere we look. It’s the result of the way we consume. It’s inherent in everything we produce. And what a waste we are grappling with now.

According to research from the World Bank, more than 2 billion tonnes of municipal solid waste are generated every year, and that is just everyday trash. Add industrial and agricultural waste, and the figure becomes truly unimaginable. Without urgent action, global waste is set to increase by 70% over the next 30 years.

But what if waste could be reframed, thought of as an abundant resource rather than an unwanted material? What if we design with waste as the starting point, and as an end in itself? What if waste could be made useful and beautiful, re-birthed and given worth? The time has come to never let waste go to waste again.

From left: Peggy Chair designed by South Korean DJ Peggy Gou in collaboration with Space Available and made with over 20kg of plastic salvaged from landfills, rivers and the ocean; biodegradable bag by Sonnet155 made from leftover fruit peels and cellulose waste.

Opening amid the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), The Waste Refinery at National Design Centre brings together international and local brands, designers, artists and schools to show how design can tackle critical global issues.

From acclaimed Japanese designer Kazuhiro Yamanaka to London-based Fash-Tech studio Petit Pli to the students of LASALLE College of the Arts, these 20 exhibitors curated by award-winning creative agency Kinetic Singapore collectively address one of the biggest sustainability challenges of our future – waste.

“One of the most pressing issues when it comes to sustainability is what can we do with the ‘monster’ – mountains of waste – that we created. The Waste Refinery aims to challenge the perception of waste as unwanted, unusable material. The exhibits here go beyond aesthetics. They demonstrate a utilitarian and functional angle to show that waste can be a truly valuable resource,” says spokesperson and creative director of Kinetic Singapore, Pann Lim. 

From top: Clothes That Grow by Petit Pli made with 100% recycled polyester derived from plastic bottles; Insectica Plastica by LASALLE College of the Arts students made from found objects and materials.

Among the exhibits are sustainable footwear made from used tyres by Indonesian brand Indosole; playful table tennis bats crafted from recycled plastic by Sydney studio Préssec; a pair of guardian lions grown into shape using mycelium (a natural fungi material of industrial strength) by Mycotech Lab; ceramic vessels glazed with coloured pigments derived from metal mining residue by Lithuanian designer Agne Kucerenkaite; homeware  made from renovation and construction waste  by homegrown label LAAT; and one-of-a-kind refurbished chairs by beloved local second hand furniture store Hock Siong in collaboration with textile studio Soft Studio.

“The ways in which people produce and discard materials as well as unsellable items illustrate a gross neglect of the world we live in. In the midst of this extreme excess, we ask ourselves how can we (create items that) stand the test of time and be befitting to mother earth that needs us? Surely even the world of design can withdraw from its excessiveness,” says interior designer and co-founder of LAAT, Cherin Tan, on why she works with waste.  

From left: Pong table tennis bats by Sydney-based Pressec crafted from sheets of terrazzo-like recycled plastic; botanical paints from discarded fruit peels, fallen leaves and flowers, and wood shavings by Wild Dot.

During its run from November 2021 till January 2022, The Waste Refinery will be complemented by an online campaign to spark conversations about waste. This will take the form of tutorials on transforming waste into items of value and beauty, and contests on social media.

“The Waste Refinery shows how creative ingenuity can benefit communities by diverting waste from landfills and generating new revenue streams, while transforming raw materials into precious objects. We hope that this exhibition at the National Design Centre will inspire visitors to rethink how we prescribe value to objects and aesthetics, and see the endless potential of using design to achieve a more sustainable lifestyle,” says Mark Wee, Executive Director of DesignSingapore Council.

The Waste Refinery

Exhibition from 6 November 2021 to 16 January 2022

9 am to 9 pm daily, free admission

National Design Centre, 111 Middle Road, Singapore 188969

Images of The Waste Refinery can be downloaded here

About the National Design Centre

The National Design Centre is the nexus of design, the meeting point for creative minds and businesses and the venue for presenting all things design. It is also home to DesignSingapore Council. The repurposed, award-winning conserved building is as much an emblem for outstanding Singaporean design and architecture, as it is a thriving venue for visitors to attend showcases and programmes.

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About the DesignSingapore Council (Dsg)

DesignSingapore Council’s (Dsg) vision is for Singapore to be an innovation-driven economy and a loveable city through design by 2025. As the national agency that promotes design, our mission is to develop the design sector, help Singapore use design for innovation and growth, and make life better in this UNESCO Creative City of Design. The Dsg is a subsidiary of the Singapore Economic Development Board.

For more information, please visit

Media contact

Serene Lim

DesignSingapore Council
Assistant Director

D +65 6962 2043
Sara Chong

DesignSingapore Council

D +65 6962 2095
Sharhind Singh

Edelman for DesignSingapore Council

D +65 9001 4639

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