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File #100589

A second life for plastic

10 / 28 / 2019

We believe that, at this point, there is no need to provide any further information on the impact plastics have on the planet. While half the world is really aware of this problem and tries its best to reduce the use of plastic to the minimum, the other half isn´t and as long as a radical change of attitude is not achieved, plastic will continue being present in our lives.  On an individual level there are plenty of actions we can carry out to try to control –not avoid– the negative effects. Certainly, the most obvious is to separate the waste we generate at home, recycling to the maximum and placing every single thing in the corresponding trash can; but there are other gestures that, no matter how small, add up. 

The use of cotton bags to buy fruit and vegetables is increasing, preventing the use of plastic bags every time we buy groceries. They are sold in different sizes to make them more practical. The use of bars of soap and deodorant also helps us spend less on plastic containers. On a collective level, organizations such as 4Ocean clean oceans and coastlines of human-generated waste.

But on a professional level, the world of design also has a lot to say and plenty of work ahead of it. These are initiatives and companies that have researched and sought the way for all that plastic which continues being used to be reused and to create new products, avoiding the generation of more waste. Design should be one of the driving forces for change, along with governments and institutions, to give way to a new attitude.

Let’s take a look at a few examples:

Rothy's is a sustainable shoe brand known for their lightweight flats made from knit composed of 100% post-consumer plastic, while the foam components of the insoles are made from other recycled shoes. All in all, the company has repurposed nearly 13 million plastic water bottles. The footwear industry is maybe the most innovative: apart from the mentioned Rothy’s, Adidas, Nike, Vivobarefoot and other brands are using recycled plastic to a greater or lesser extent in their composition.

 

 

The clothing sector does not fall behind. We find brands such as Girlfriend Collective that manufacture leggings and sportswear with post-consumer plastic, or the Waste Nothing Jacket by Aday, a short-sleeved, kimono-style jacket made from over 40 plastic bottles. In Barcelona, the company Demano, has been manufacturing bags made of the banners used to advertise events and exhibitions on the streets of the city. Lefrik is another brand that manufactures bags and backpacks, but in this case using the highest quality eco-friendly fabrics made out of recycled plastic PET bottles.

Furniture and product design is perhaps one of the fields with room for further research. This is a sector with a high consumption of raw materials and a great change could be made by reusing plastic or discarded wood, in order to provide a second life to these materials. Van de Sant is a pioneering company. A desire to stop deforestation and the frustration with plastic pollution prompted Robert Milder, the founder of Van de Sant, to start experimenting with furniture frames made from recycled plastic. In this way, he obtains a fully circular product. On the other hand, designers Barber and Osgerby have created a chair entirely made of recycled PET bottles for the emblematic company Emeco. The lightweight design, named On and On in reference to its ability to be continually recycled, is totally circular, meaning that it can be endlessly recycled so that new chairs can be made from old chairs.

 

There is clearly a long way to go before we eliminate plastic or minimize it to the maximum, but in the meantime, we should try to reuse it as much as we can, to avoid using new materials when the planet is full of already used material.

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Research