Few things are as emblematic of our throwaway culture as the humble plastic bag. Cheap to produce, easy to carry, and convenient to use, some 500 billion of the things are deployed worldwide every year only to wind up hanging from trees, clogging storm drains, or filling seabird bellies. It’s ironic, really. For something so ephemeral, plastic bags stick around for a very, very long time. But what if we could create value from the expendable? As an exercise, German designer Stefanie Ritter created “Streetplastic”, a hand-operated “mobile foundry” that transforms castoff plastic bags into customizable totes.

BAG MACHINE

Like the plastic bag itself, the process is part solution, part problem. For starters, you need a fresh, unmarked bag for it to work, a point so ludicrous we can’t imagine it wasn’t on purpose.

RELATED | Sheila Odessey Recycles Plastic Bags into Elegant Totes, Clutches

The recycling aspect comes from an old bag that you insert into an attached hopper. A turn of a crank shreds, layers, and melts the second bag in different configurations on top of the first, before spitting out a jaunty little carrier with a bold new design.

Obviously, Ritter’s “Streetplastic” is more thought experiment than fix, but it’s an interesting one, nevertheless. The world is a paradoxical place, and the so-called “cures”—ramping up recycling without tamping down consumption, for instance—are sometimes no better than the disease.

+ Streetplastic

+ Stefanie Ritter

[Via Fast Co.Design]