Photos by Oscar Vinck and Tommy Köhlbrugge
The microwave oven is a technologically advanced appliance used all over the world to warm or cook food. In Common Sands, this icon of consumer electronics becomes a starting point to investigate the international production and disposal of silicate junk. Silicates are created from natural silica sand – a resource that is under increasing amounts of pressure – and include glass, glass fibre, silicon and a range of other materials that are difficult for the layperson to identify. They are a fundamental material in the design of most electronic devices, making them an essential pillar of contemporary culture, but they are rarely recycled.
Understanding the conditions that affect fabrication and scrapping is key to understanding how our culture is using the world’s resources, but manufacturers alienate us from this reality, either purposefully or unconsciously. Using the rich, global tradition of sand drawing, Studio Plastique reveals the life cycle of the microwave and its silicate components. Sand drawings have been found in many countries throughout history. They link East and West, North and South, echoing the assembly, use, dismantling and trashing of the microwave. Here, sand drawing offers a meditation on the processing of natural silica into jewels of sand technology before its final transformation into junk. The global influences on and impacts of microwave production and disposal are mapped as an orbital layer around the core narrative, revealing a matrix of regulations, materials and changing cultural and social mores and habits.
Information and Insight into WEEE Recycling: Electrocycling, Germany; Renewi Group (Recydel & Coolrec), Belgium and The Netherlands
Information and Insight into Sand Mining: Shanks, Belgium
Information and Technical Advice on Silicate Waste: U Mons
“Environment and health at increasing risk from growing weight of ‘e-waste,’” UN News, January 24, 2019. Link
“EU waste legislation & building glass recycling,” Glass for Europe, March 2014. Link
European Commission, “Waste Electrical & Electronic Equipment (WEEE),” European Union, March 23, 2020. Link
European Container Glass Federation, “Glass Recycling Hits 73% in the EU,” FEVE, September 14, 2015. Link
“Glass Prices 2017,” Let’s Recycle, 2017. Link
Pascal Peduzzi, “Sand, rarer than one thinks,” United Nations Environmental Programme, March 2014. Link
Vince Beiser, “The World’s Disappearing Sand,” New York Times June 23, 2016. Link
Theresa Bastek and Archibald Godts founded Studio Plastique in 2017 in Brussels after graduating from Design Academy Eindhoven. Their work combines imaginative scenarios and critical reflections with in-depth investigations of complex material supply chains and technological infrastructures, thus pushing the boundaries of what design aims to achieve. Studio Plastique builds up networks of collaboration around significant themes for contemporary society, strategically positioning the role of the designer in an evolving landscape of industry, culture, and human experience.
Studio Plastique’s work has received international recognition and their work has been shown at the Design Museum Ghent, Design Museum Holon, Van Abbe Museum Eindhoven, as well as international fairs and platforms. They recently received the Henry van de Velde Young Talent Gold Award in Belgium and the SYN Award in Germany.