Seven companies designing with the environment in mind.
Brighton, U.K.–based design studio GOMI has found a use for discarded single-use plastics. As plastic waste is an ever-growing issue, Gomi was seeking a solution; they found it in transforming nonrecyclable, flexible plastic waste into an easily workable material—with it, the design studio has created Bluetooth speakers. “With our Bluetooth speakers, we want to intercept a waste stream that would otherwise be landfilled or incinerated,” says Gomi cofounder Tom Meades in an interview with Design Milk. Every speaker takes about 100 plastic bags of material to make, and each one is hand-marbled so no two are alike. The project is currently being crowdfunded on Kickstarter.
European company ECOBIRDY has created their first-ever line of eco-friendly children’s furniture—made with 100 percent recycled plastic from unused toys. Throughout the recycling process, the plastic waste is carefully sorted and cleaned. Once formed, the final furniture pieces have a mosaic-like appearance. The sustainable furniture collection consists of Charlie the Chair, Luisa the Table, Rhino the Lamp, and Kiwi the Container, all in a variety of color options. With this collection, ecoBirdy is simultaneously able to raise awareness about sustainability and reduce waste impact on the planet. To accompany the collection, ecoBirdy has created a storybook and school program to teach children about design and to inspire them to create a sustainable future.
Belfast-based building product manufacturer GO LAB has received two grants to help further its mission to transform North America’s insulation market. The grants, $750,000 from MAINE TECHNOLOGY INSTITUTE and $250,000 from the U.S. FOREST SERVICE’S WOOD INNOVATIONS grant program, were both awarded in the spring of 2019. GO Lab is working to create the first facility in the United States that will manufacture wood-based low-density fiberboard insulation. The insulation is made from soft woodchips and is renewable, recyclable, and nontoxic. The production facility will take over the former UPM paper mill in Madison and will create 100 jobs. The funds will also support market education to help customers understand GO Lab’s products.
Chinese studio BENTU DESIGN has repurposed ceramic waste into a furniture and lighting collection. Each piece is made from mixed concrete and ceramic shards that are visible throughout. The mixture is cast into a mold; once set, a subtle color is applied to highlight the bowl, cup, and Buddha statue fragments in each bench, lampshade, or side table. A recent rise in ceramic production has led to a rise in ceramic waste. “We always pay close attention to the ordinary and useless materials like construction waste [and] pipes…it is not surprising that we now turn our hands to ceramic waste,” says the studio. Bentu translates to “local creating,” and the studio is dedicated to repurposing wasted materials around the area of Chaozhou in eastern China. Bentu Design’s goal is to highlight the beauty found in waste by creating furniture from discarded materials.
MARGARITA TALEP has created a sustainable, biodegradable alternative to single-use packaging plastics. Single-use plastics are used heavily in product and food packaging, which is quickly thrown away. The Chile-born designer developed a substitute using raw material extracted from algae. The basic mixture is made of a polymer, a plasticizer, and an additive; the amounts of each vary depending on the desired final consistency. All aspects of the composite material are made of natural matter, including dyes used for coloring. The main ingredient is agar, a jelly-like substance that is extracted from red algae. Water is added to promote plasticity, and the mixture is boiled, set into a mold, and cooled. To keep packaging as natural as possible, it can be sealed with heat rather than glue. Depending on the thickness of the material, the packaging degrades in two to three months in the summer, and three to four months in the winter.
Rotterdam-based research and design studio THE NEW RAW has launched the PRINT YOUR CITY initiative: an initiative that takes plastic household waste and uses it to create 3D-printed furniture for outdoor public spaces. The process takes place inside a ZERO WASTE LAB in Thessaloniki, Greece. The lab is outfitted with a 3D printing robotic arm and recycling facilities that were implemented by COCA-COLA. Anyone is welcome to bring their plastic waste and become a part of the recycling process—they can even design their own piece. Each piece can be designed with additional options like dog bowls and bike locks, or can double as a planter for more greenery. After selecting design features, color, and shape, users will then choose a public space for it, and the Print Your City websites tells users how much plastic waste is needed to complete the piece.
Car manufacturer VOLVO is helping to promote and protect coastal marine biodiversity in Australia. In partnership with the NORTH SYDNEY COUNCIL, REEF DESIGN LAB, and SYDNEY INSTITUTE OF MARINE SCIENCES, Volvo has created LIVING SEAWALL tiles to line the walls of Sydney Harbor in a biomimicry experiment. The tiles mimic the root structure of mangrove trees and were created in response to the removal of mangrove jungles that once lined the harbor. Communities of filter-feeding organisms that help to remove particles and pollutants from the water can find reprieve in the heavily textured tiles and eventually colonize the wall. Each piece is 3D printed using a mixture of marine concrete and recycled plastic. Currently, only 50 tiles line the harbor, but with plans to install a total of 500 tiles in 2019, the hope is that the Living Seawall will reintroduce a system with long-term biodiversity and environmental health benefits.