Fatconomy and the Uncharted Future of Fats

Fatconomy and the Uncharted Future of Fats
Legend of the image, photographed by Name Last Name, 2023
  • Lead

    Robert Johnson

    Words by Joshua Plough

  • Supported by

    The Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851

  • Date

    2022 – 2025

'Fatconomy and the Uncharted Future of Fats' is an ongoing project supported by the Design Museum London (2020-21) The Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 (2022-24). What started as a series of design-driven investigations into waste fats and oils has evolved into research-driven methodologies that chart alternative futures for a material waste going beyond its current use as a biofuel.

Since biofuels are the only trade that deals with our ever-increasing fat and oil waste output, it became clear that if this material and associated industries were to have a sustainable future, we had to imagine actionable alternative scenarios for them. From speculation to product development and implementation, Fatconomy demonstrates the importance of imagination in developing viable new prospects, systems and narratives around this unwanted substance.

So far, through our mapping, social dreaming and associated slow system framework methodologies, we have forged new paths and partnerships to help shift public perception of this often reviled and slippery substance. By working with industry specialists, film directors, food designers, material engineers, and more, this project opens up a new material culture and narrative surrounding the power of fat. We focus on network building and sustaining cross-collaborative relationships to diversify an industry facing uncertain prospects due to the rise of waste theft, government policy, changing consumer habits and climatic changes.

The Fatconomy’s three core pillars are:

  • Field research;
  • Revealing a speculative future through genuine innovations and labour incentives;
  • And visualising these futures by creating immersive films, in-depth reports, products, material prototypes and interactive installations.

Fat is often stigmatized as dirty and dangerous, whether in our bodies or sewers. We aim to change this image, viewing fat and waste oil as keys to sustainable economies and environmental policies. Fat is pure energy waiting to be unlocked, crucial for diverging from climate breakdown. Despite challenges, fat isn't going away. We're challenging its myths and realities to unlock future potential. The new culture of fat is here, and we need more people to recognize it.