Innovation That Matters

Flat-pack toaster helps people understand technology


A Scottish designer has developed a flat-pack toaster that can be easily constructed and repaired, decreasing the likelihood it will be thrown away.

According to a United Nations University report, 12.8 million tons of small equipment (such as vacuum cleaners, microwaves, toasters, electric shavers and video cameras) is thrown away each year, part of a throw-away culture that encourages overconsumption and leads to waste. But with flat pack homes and self-assembly shoes already a reality – we have to wonder if do-it-yourself appliances might help reduce waste. In fact, Scottish designer Kasey Hou has developed a project that encourages people to repair products instead of throwing them away.

Hou began from the realization that “most products are designed to be ‘sealed boxes’ that cannot be opened nor fixed.” This gives people no choice when products break but to throw them away. So she set out to design a toaster that could be easily assembled, and easily disassembled for repair. Hou realized that it was very difficult to take toasters apart without breaking them. They were designed and manufactured in a way that prevents people from conducting their own repairs. So she developed a flat pack toaster that could be built by anyone. Building the toaster not only teaches people how toasters work, it also encourages a sentimental attachment which may increase people’s willingness to repair the toaster instead of throwing it away.

After constructing a prototype, Hou invited participants to assemble the toasters. They all found the assembly to be fun and easy, with some claiming they would feel comfortable repairing the toaster, and other realizing that toasters were not as complicated as they thought. Although Hou has no immediate plans to market the toaster, she concluded that this design process could likely be used for other household items.




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