Emerging themes

Waste: a new resource

Design for a circular economy

How to create opportunity from problems.

While our planet is slowly but inexorably submerging in waste like plastics, which will outlive us for hundreds of years, perhaps it is better to think of this enormous burden as a new and rich resource rather than something to remove.

How could we repurpose waste?

The proposals are numerous, all the result of years of study and experimentation, but only now are they becoming feasible, tangible solutions.

Regardless of the various forces at play, 2018 seemed like the right year to share these proposals, projects studies at visions.

Rossana Orlandi, for example, dubbed ‘Senso di Colpa’ as the MDW exhibit of the year, turning the eyes of the design world toward recycled plastic.

But the great ocean of waste is not only made of plastic, but various materials resulting from our profuse universe. Each sector has its own kind of waste: fabrics, wood, etc. The proposals for transformation and reuse of these materials are intriguing and creative.

Shahar Livne: plastic is hypernatural material

“Design Academy Eindhoven graduate Shahar Livne has created a clay-like material using discarded plastic, which she envisions as a valuable commodity that future civilisations will mine for.

The Israeli designer is presenting a range of sculptural objects created from her Lithoplast material.


Her aim is to challenge the idea that petroleum-based plastics are damaging the planet – by treating the material as something precious.


She speculates that plastic production will cease in the future. As a result, the discarded waste from the present era would be seen as a rare and natural resource, needing to be mined from deep underground.”

Photo: Dezeen

“The most prominent material-marker of humanity, are plastics… I think plastic is a hypernatural material… Plastics are made to be durable, and may survive much longer than we had imagined. There is no place in the world that is free from plastics anymore.

Shahar Livne, in an interview with Next Nature Network

Rossana Orlandi

“The event, …dedicated to the project SENSO DI COLPA, [was] organized by Rossana Orlandi herself to raise awareness on the theme of recycling plastics. Beginning with the current situation, where potentially reusable objects are carelessly thrown into the ocean, the debate will center around how to transform a disastrous situation into a creative opportunity. How? Naturally, by converting the plastic into design furniture.”

Eco Birdy: Sea of Plastic

“On the occasion of Milan Design Week 2018, new brand ecoBirdy presented its four-piece debut collection of design furniture for kids made entirely of recycled plastic.

All products are made of ecothylene®, an innovative material – developed by ecoBirdy – that separates the recycled plastic by colour. This gives every product an original and unique look.”

Sea of Plastic [ecobirdy]


SEA: textile created from waste

“De Ploeg presents an innovative new curtain fabric SEA. The fabric is the result of technological research involving the transformation of plastic waste into textile fibre; the volunteers of the organisation U-turn collect this waste along the coasts.” 

Masterly: The Dutch in Milano

Really: Kvadrat

“Challenging designers and architects to rethink their use of resources, Really starts a dialogue about the shift in perception, process and logistics needed as we grapple with upcycling waste…

Designing with circular economy principles is based on systems thinking; it means designing the whole system, not just the products. Achieving material infinity requires change on the part of everyone involved in the life of a product, from the suppliers of raw materials to the manufacturer, retailer, consumer and end-of-life disposal and recycling companies.

Solid Textile Board and Acoustic Textile Felt are high-quality engineered materials made from end-of-life cotton and wool sourced from fashion and textile industries, industrial laundries, households and cut offs from Kvadrat.”

Photocredits: Benjamin Hubert

Finsa + Envisions

Envisions is a collective of 20 multi-disciplinary designers, with a shared fascination for experimental research, led by Sanne Schuurman.
“The Wood in Progress exhibition is a continuation of the collective’s Wood In Process project, presented at last year’s Milan design festival… This year’s display has seen six designers from last year’s exhibit return to showcase the fruits of their experimental material research, focusing on the industrial processes and production rather than the materials samples…
According to Schuurman, these research products had to coordinate with the existing production processes within the factories of Finsa, without losing the “in-depth creativity” of the designers.”

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