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.

Photo courtesy of dirkvanderkooij.com

Photo courtesy of dirkvanderkooij.com

Dirk Vander Kooij’s Endless Chair

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.

Photo courtesy of news.adidas.com

Photo courtesy of news.adidas.com

Adidas’ Sustainable Shoe Prototype

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.

Photo courtesy of nienkehoogvliet.nl

Photo courtesy of nienkehoogvliet.nl

Nienke Hoogvliet’s RE-SEA ME Collection

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.

dorandriftwood

Photo courtesy of jamesdoranwebb.com

James Doran-Webb’s Driftwood Sculptures

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.

Photo courtesy of inhabitat.com

Photo courtesy of inhabitat.com

KaCaMa’s Zero-Waste Stools

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.

Photo courtesy of Etsy

Photo courtesy of Etsy

Lampada’s Coffee-Filter Lampshades

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.

Photo courtesy of ilabianchi.com

Photo courtesy of ilabianchi.com

Ilaria Bianchi’s CastAway Furniture

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.

Photo courtesy of sideprojectcollective.com

Photo courtesy of sideprojectcollective.com

Jeff McCann’s Cardboard Bags

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.

Photo courtesy of incandescentcloud.com

Photo courtesy of incandescentcloud.com

Caitlind r.c. Brown & Wayne Garrett’s Interactive CLOUD Sculpture

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.

Photo courtesy of jackshainman.com

Photo courtesy of jackshainman.com

El Anatsui’s Bottle Cap Tapestries

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.

Photo courtesy of itsnicethat.com

Photo courtesy of itsnicethat.com

Aidia Studios’ Light Installation

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.

Photo courtesy of designboom.com

Photo courtesy of designboom.com

Vik Muniz’s Scrap Metal Animals

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.

Photo courtesy of plastiketic.fr

Photo courtesy of plastiketic.fr

Plastiketic’s Kuskus Rocking Chair

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.

Photo courtesy of designboom.com

Photo courtesy of designboom.com

Mark Oliver’s Litterbugs

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.

fernandroby.com

Photo courtesy of fernandroby.com

Fern & Roby’s Wooden Speakers

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.

Photo courtesy of mosevic.com

Photo courtesy of mosevic.com

Mosevic’s Recycled Denim Eyewear

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.

Photo courtesy of tidalvisionusa.com

Photo courtesy of tidalvisionusa.com

Tidal Vision’s Fish Leather Wallets

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.

Photo courtesy of brieditis-evans.se

Photo courtesy of brieditis-evans.se

Re Rag’s Rugs

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.

Photo courtesy of pressodesign.com

Photo courtesy of pressodesign.com

Presso Design’s Burlap Bags

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.

Photo courtesy of organic-lingerie.com

Photo courtesy of organic-lingerie.com

Sophie Young’s Pine Needle Lingerie

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.”

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