Sustainability Research and Design

How sustainable is Bhar ?

How sustainable is Bhar is a research project which examines the traditional clay teacup from India called Bhar for its sustainability values and proposes a circular design concept to be able to sustainably launch the teacup as alternative to disposable plastic cups. The life-centred approach focuses on the strategy to create a circular economy by extending the cup's life cycle through recycling of the discarded material. The strategy enables human-centred design opportunities like an intervention in the user waste behaviour, a new perspective on the wasted material terracotta and of course new ceramic products made out of the recycled material. Reusable teacups are designed as homage to the original and communicate the concept in a tangible way.

Railway Minister Piyush Goyal stated Nov. 2020 to reintroduce the "environment-friendly clay cup in place of plastic cups at all railway stations in the country". BUT replacing waste with waste is not the solution.

Design task: sustainably exchanging disposable chai cups made of plastic with Bhar

The teacup is manufactured since many generations and has a long history in the Indian culture. It is made of the native material terracotta, fired in an open fire at a low temperature up to 800 degrees Celsius, and can contain 30 or 50 ml of chai. The national common used name is Kulhad and Bhar [baːɐ̯] in the region of West Bengal. The project started in Kolkata, where the teacup has not been replaced and many potters still craft and live in the city.

Challenge: zero single-use plastic AND zero single-use terracotta in India.

Considering the higher amount of cups disposed of every day, zero single-use plastic needs to be completed with zero single-use terracotta.

Research question: how sustainable is Bhar?

The driving idea is to prevent plastic waste and India finds a solution among its treasure of heritage. What are the cup's characteristics and how to use its full potential to make it a sustainability solution.

Approach: improving the cup's life cycle through introducing a circular economy

Solution: a new material that enables inspiring design opportunities

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