Coffee Break is a book that was the result of a project focused on observing the current state of how materials are being used in manufacturing. The research conducted covered the most current issues in the world of material manufacture, as well as use and disposal.
The protagonist in the story is the "Salton Three For All Plus EX-30" espresso and coffee machine. This particular counter-top appliance was found in a thrift store and it was no longer in working condition. Working with two teammates, we disassembled it piece by piece until the only things left were little piles of scraps, carefully sorted by material. Glass, metals and plastics all make an appearance on the table, and each individual material is weighed and analyzed.
The materials were observed from macro to micro perspectives, as were their properties, and their transformation from raw material trough to the life cycle of the product.
By meticulously dismantling this coffee maker, it helped draw some conclusions on the current state of mass manufactured products. It is clear that despite individual attempts to design increasingly sustainable products, most decisions are made with financial intent, irrespective of the impact or repercussions of the manufactured product.
After the different materials in a product have served their purpose, it is up to the (often uneducated) end user to decide where they will end up. Even if the last person to own the coffee maker was passionate about disposing of it properly, they would be required to disassemble a product that was not created with the capability to be taken apart. Even taken apart, most materials (especially plastics) lack the proper marking and indications the be appropriately sorted.
The best solution would be for the product creators to assume this responsibility.
The book helps bring the reality and impacts of mass manufacture into perspective, with hopes that this awareness can make a difference.