‘Fatconomy and the uncharted future of fats’ is a series of design-driven investigations into waste fats and oils, focusing on the main (and only) trade that deals with our ever-increasing fat and oil waste output produced from all commercial and domestic kitchens: biofuel production.
My previous explorations began with my design residency at the Design Museum, in London. Creating a new ‘map’ of the city through the eyes of waste fats – a taxonomy of material samples was created for 144 different restaurants across the city, with each cuisine represented by a new ‘fat’ biomaterial made from its respective waste stream. The result was a multi-cultural material map of colours and textures dictated by its waste fat source - with an ambition to replace any need for plastic packaging or protective materials within its region. A key ingredient to this material recipe was glycerol, a natural fatty acid byproduct that is created when waste fats and oils are converted into biofuel.
The ongoing shift towards electrical and other technologically advanced energy-driven initiatives has introduced significant uncertainty for the biofuel industry. The industry now faces the challenge of adapting to evolving policies, environmental changes, and mandates such as the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO). Despite ongoing efforts to adapt, a crucial question remains unanswered: what lies ahead for the future of biofuel? As this future becomes increasingly uncertain, it raises another vital question that this project aims to address: what will be the future of fat?
Continuing with my previous research, I made the decision to engage with the biofuel industry as my primary area of collaboration. My focus is centered on exploring their future labour and their existing expertise in waste innovation. whilst raising awareness about the critical challenges that the biofuel sector currently confronts. Through collective imagination and collaboration, my objective is to foster a broader initiative for waste oil and fat and to promote the utilization of waste fat as a valuable resource in today’s society.
The biofuel trade provides a vital service to our waste system that is fraught with innovation hurdles tied to petroleum incentives. By taking a deeper look at waste fat and oils in a series of design-driven investigations, a material narrative will unravel the incredible power of our fat waste that is not only aiding a decarbonization effort globally but houses the ability to feed a variety of local economies by utilizing the same waste stream.