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Supporting Sustainability: 100% Recycled ProductsAuthor: Radmila Durasinovic
Supporting Sustainability: 100% Recycled Products
The Design Defender Showcase series features products from leading manufacturers in the design industry, providing a rich source of inspiration for professional designers and design enthusiasts alike, helping them stay up-to-date with the latest trends and discover fresh ideas for ongoing projects.
In an era where environmental consciousness is rapidly growing, recycling and recyclability has become a core aspect of good furniture design. The world of recycled (and recyclable!) furniture opens a range of possibilities and challenges in the skilful repurposing of discarded materials like reclaimed wood, repurposed metals, upcycled plastics, and textiles.
Amidst a profit-driven world where companies prioritise financial gain, there exists a trend of presenting themselves as environmentally friendly to improve public perception. However, behind closed doors, the truth can sometimes be far from the “green” or “conscious” labels used in advertising, with greenwashing being a legitimate and rising concern for consumers today. Therefore, in this article, we focus on 100% recycled furniture pieces that inspire with their intriguing forms and unexpected uses of materials or cutting-edge technology and companies that have established trust and credibility.
Unveiled at the Salone del Mobile in Milan in 2019, the A.I. chair represents a unique collaboration between artificial intelligence and human intelligence—"Natural Intelligence” as Philippe Starck calls it. It has been called “one of the most creative outcomes ever achieved” with generative design, a technology that allows designers and engineers to input their design goals, along with various parameters, to quickly generate design solutions. Kartell has taken a significant step towards sustainability by incorporating 100% recycled material into the production of the A.I. chair. By reusing clean industrial scraps and transforming them into raw materials, the company follows an environmentally conscious approach, ensuring the product meets aesthetic and structural requirements while minimising emissions during production.
Bit is a versatile stool/side table/plant stand—the possibilities are endless—that adds personality to spaces with its bold, distinctive geometry in a colourful pattern, which draws inspiration from monoliths and columns. Designer Simon Legald juxtaposed the stool's utilitarian aesthetic with a pixelated surface composed of small fragments of 100% recycled household and industrial plastic. Through a specialised process, these plastic bits are heated to a melting point of 120°C, allowing for repeated reuse and reheating without altering their properties. This unique approach gives each Bit stool its distinctive thickness and composition, ensuring that every piece is truly one-of-a-kind.
The Viaduct granite bench pays homage to historical influences from the garden where it was exhibited. Inspired by Roman aqueducts and viaducts, the bench has a strong architectural presence, combining a classical aesthetic with material durability. In early 2023, a new version of the bench was introduced, made from cross-laminated timber (CLT). The wood used for the bench is 100% from residual materials generated during the manufacturing of CLT panels for the building industry. By repurposing these leftover materials, the wooden Viaduct bench demonstrates a commitment to sustainability and resource optimisation, for which it received an annual Swedish Design S Award in the furniture category.
Since 1942, Sika Design has been committed to their mission to create furniture with the least possible environmental impact through the use of natural rattan—a material that represents the cornerstone of the company. Consideration for the environment permeates every aspect of their production, influencing their choice of materials, production processes, as well as packaging and transportation methods. The company has even retired collections and products that no longer meet their stringent sustainability standards.
As part of their ever-expanding commitment to sustainability, their glass vases are crafted from 100% recycled glass and manufactured in Spain. By utilising recycled materials, the production of these vases occurs at lower temperatures compared to conventional methods, an energy-saving approach that allows for the significant reduction of their environmental footprint.
With a design philosophy of “begin with what's left over. Turn it into what will last,” Emeco designs are rooted in the core ideas of sustainable production. Emeco was founded in 1944, with its first commission coming from the U.S. government—to create a durable, lightweight chair that could withstand U.S. Navy use. It was a challenge that ultimately birthed the iconic Emeco Navy Chair—which the company claims can survive anything—and established a legacy of creating durable items out of used materials.
Over the decades, Emeco has created many strong, smart designs with a similar aesthetic, in collaboration with world-renowned designers including Ettore Sottsass, Philippe Starck, Jasper Morrison, and Konstantin Grcic, among others. With 90% of their product range made from recycled materials, and by sourcing and manufacturing as locally as possible, the company demonstrates a commitment to environmental and social sustainability that goes well beyond mandatory laws and regulations. Although not technically 100% recycled (the 1006 Navy® Chair and subsequent aluminium designs are made from 80% recycled aluminum), Emeco’s high standards place them well above the competition, making the company a hard one to ignore when talking about sustainability practices.
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