Sustainable Design: 20 Beautiful Objects Made out of Waste
From recycled denim sunglass frames to breathtaking bottlecap tapestries, designers and artists are constantly finding innovative ways to turn waste into eco-friendly works of art and high-end products. Anything we can do to divert trash from landfills is a step in the right direction towards living a more sustainable life, so I often share the work of innovative sustainable designers whose work is inspriring. Here are 20 surprisingly beautiful objects made out of trash.
This chair is made out of one plastic string, crafted by a 3D printer into a chair by a series of meticulous movements. The plastic is obtained from old refrigerators, and the technique used to make the chair ensures that there is no waste in the process. Dirk Vander Kooij won the Dutch Design Award in 2011 for his Endless Chair, and his design has been displayed at the MoMA.
Adidas announced their partnership with Parley for the Oceans this summer by unveiling a shoe made almost entirely from recycled ocean waste. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society also contributed to the project by collecting yarns and filaments from illegal fishing nets during a 110-day expedition – the nets can be seen in the design of the upper shoe. While the shoe is not currently for sale, an Adidas spokeswoman told The Huffington Post that the company will begin incorporating recycled plastic into its shoes in early 2016.
As a means of showing the duality between plastic waste in the oceans and the sustainable building materials the oceans have to offer, Nienke constructed seating for stools out of fish skins. Though fish skins can be made into beautiful leather (as in Nienke’s collection), they are a waste product of the fishing industry. Nienke collected the skins from fish shops and tanned them without the use of chemicals to create a strong, sustainable leather. While Nienke’s stools were hand-crafted, she believes fish leather could be made on a large scale, and hopes that her work will inspire others to work with materials from the sea that would otherwise be considered waste.
In order to collect the driftwood for his stunning life-like sculptures, James Doran-Webb enlists locals from impoverished villages and provides them with much-needed cash in return. He uses woods of many different species to create sculptures of galloping horses, fighting bulls, and various other animals in action. His sculptures will be on display at The Contemporary Fine Art Gallery Eton in December 2015.
These seating stools are made from recycled fans and discarded wood. The seating area is made from broken fans sourced from the St James Settlement and wrapped with discarded electrical wire housing to provide comfort and stability. The legs of the stool are made from salvaged wood and abandoned freight crates. With their colorful, hand-made seats, KaCaMa wanted to explore the concept of zero-waste furniture and promote recycling.
Artist Vilma Silveira Farrell crafts lampshades from recycled coffee filters, which she collects from coffee shops and dyes with water-based paint. These one-of-a-kind designs can be purchased from Farrell’s online store.
Bianchi seeks to re-contextualize industrial and urban waste in order to critique consumerist culture. CastAway Furniture, rather than hiding or re-shaping waste products, makes waste the focus of the design. Bianchi hopes to inspire a new way of thinking about design aesthetics and show opportunities to repurpose waste materials into design.
Jeff McCann’s water-resistant bags are crafted from locally-sourced cardboard in Sydney. Each bag contains a custom illustration by McCann. The bags come in four sizes, clutch, handbag, shoulder bag, and backpack. McCann started making the bags four years ago and personally hand crafts each one.
This interactive sculpture was created from 6,000 incandescent light bulbs. The artists collected burnt out bulbs and pull-string switches from their community to build a sculpture that viewers can work together to turn on and off. CLOUD was originally built for Nuit Blanche Calgary in 2012 and continues to be shown in venues around the world. CLOUD was also short-listed for an Innovation by Design Award in New York City in 2013.
Ghanaian artist El Anatsui uses discarded bottle caps and copper wire to create beautifully draped tapestries that appear to be made out of precious metals rather than trash. Anatsui’s art seeks to draw connections between colonialism and consumption through his use of found materials.
Milkywave was Aidia Studios’ entry for Beijing Design Week 2012, and was made out of 1664 glazed ceramic yogurt bottles. The light installation highlights the beauty in found objects and encourages the re-use of mass-produced objects to design entirely new systems.
This Brazilian artist made brilliant, intricate representations of various animals out of scrap metal. Muniz has a history of using trash and found objects in his art – previous works have been made out of sugar, thread, chocolate syrup and other garbage.
This rocking chair is made from 36 recycled bottles, and is part of Plastiketic’s overall mission to provide eco-friendly home decor through upcycling. The Kuskus features an ethically-sourced wooden frame, and the plastic bottles are puffed up with air to provide comfort.
Mark Oliver has used found objects such as eyeglass-arms, clock hands, and discarded paper to make a series of insects that he calls “litterbugs.” He creates a scientific name for each one, and catalogs them on his website.
This Virginia-based design house produces hardware and accessories made from reclaimed wood, cast metal, and other locally-sourced materials. Their wood-finish speakers are made from 100 year old wood and recycled cast aluminum, and are designed for maximum performance.
Mosevic finds a way to make use of denim waste that comes from clothing that hasn’t sold, secondhand clothing, or offcuts of denim that manufacturers aren’t able to use. The frames are made of denim infused with resin, and come in Indigo, Washed Blue, and Stone Black.
Tidal Vision works with fisheries to upcycle their byproducts, such as fish skin and crab shells, in order to help those fisheries become more sustainable. Their fish leather wallets are tanned using an FDA-certified food-grade formula to provide durability without harming the environment.
Re Rag Rug uses waste from the textile industry to create beautiful and sustainable rugs. They employ a variety of textile techniques including platting, crocheting, and macramé to create beautiful pieces from fabric that would otherwise be discarded.
Presso Design buys burlap sacks that are used to transport raw coffee beans, which are normally thrown away, to craft their sleeves and bags. Natural canvas, hemp, and pure Italian leather are used to add durability.
French designer Sophie Young turns pine needles from recycled Christmas trees into gorgeous lingerie. Believe it or not, the fabric is soft as silk and non-allergenic. The pine needles are regenerated to create a fiber similar to viscose rayon. Young’s collection includes panties, bras, camisoles, and men’s boxer briefs.
By now we’re used to seeing art and furniture made from found objects, but I was surprised to see electronics, accessories, and, yes, lingerie made from waste material. This list is proof that sustainable design can be innovative and beautiful, and gives new life to the adage, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”