The Environment Agency recently warned that criminals are abandoning so-called recycling centres leaving mountains of waste – there were 989 illegal waste site in 2015-16. All the more important for waste to find new uses, and designers are helping.
On the mass market, Ikea is leading the way. They’ve made the front of new kitchen units by wrapping reclaimed wood with a foil made from the discarded plastic PET bottles (that’s polyethylene therephalate) that often go to landfill.
By contrast, in a workshop at Somerset House on the Embankment, young Londoner Conor Taylor is fashioning a new material he calls Foresso – “a timber terrazzo.” He’s noticed that high quality timber in wood workshops is regularly wasted. “Delicate curls of planed wood and beautiful larger pieces simply get burnt, or pulped for filler.”
Taylor rescues them and uses coloured binders to make attractive sheet materials for counter tops, furniture, wall panelling and so on.
In a studio in SW17, James Shaw is another young Londoner passionate about cutting down waste. He’s invented a hand “gun” which will extrude plastic bags and so on into long strips which (whilst still hot) can be formed into furniture and objects.
Equally off-piste are the honey-coloured chairs and tables, with a smooth dramatically flecked surface. They’re made by designer Spiros Kizis whose is making a material from the artichoke “fibre” left after farmers in Northern Greece have sold their crop for bio-fuel. “This is a new eco plastic bound together with resin,” says Kizis, who has just moved back from London to his native Greece, where he has a studio/workshop.
Finally, aluminium – strong, light and easy to shape – is everywhere from drinks cans to kitchen foil to car and aeroplane parts. And it’s perfect for re-use, because it keeps all of its original qualities.
London-based Australian designer Brodie Neill makes elegant table/desk trestles (which can be arranged in different ways) by pouring recycled aluminium into a traditional sand-cast mould.