Fertile Design is a research based design studio that turns food waste into biodegradable plastics that repair and enrich the soil. 

Looking into the future of sustainably designed objects, we propose to create a closed circuit system of design that is functional and fertile. We are interested in designing objects that hold space through decay, and in it’s completion, reactivate, repurpose, and revitalize the space in which they were abandoned.

The concept first began in 2016, when Jessica Gorse was working on a product that would be a fundraiser for the Cooperation Operation, a Chicago Southside community garden. Gorse was trying to create paper seed pots. And asked, “how do you make that paper more beneficial to the soil?” Gorse began thinking of compost and how it is chemically balanced and questioned whether if the same science could be applied to paper, which lead to applying that same science to plastics.

Most industries right now are on linear models for how we make materials; we extract them and turn them into products, and then we use them and dispose of them. Fertile Design looks at how we can close that loop. We started to look at the different industries in Chicago and began to figure out how can we source their waste runoffs (feedstocks) and start to make our material out of these waste streams. 

Fertile Design plastics are embedded with regenerative seeds that extract toxins from the soil. When objects made from Fertile Design plastics are planted in to the soil, the seeds first shed off, begin to extract toxins from the soil, and then as the object biodegrades if feeds the soil and the plant. The end result is that the soil is better after this alternative plastic has been planted into the ground.

Fertile Design connects us to the past when we had a deeper relationship to the earth and to the future when this might be possible again. This new future is a time informed with the cycles of the natural world and the disposable attitude of modern humanity untied through the designed embrace of a new material, Fertile Design.


Fertile Design is a design lab that creates bioplastics in an effort to unite humanity with nature. Our site is currently underconstruction.