Nowadays, “fancy” isn’t about luxury materials and extravagant designs. Instead, lavish design is more so sustainable than it is expensive. Alternative to landfills, trash is making its way back into homes as furniture. Alongside startup Pentatonic, Dutch company Plastic Whale is turning plastic waste into chic furniture pieces.
Plastic Whale recently announced a circular furniture collection, composed of a conference room table, chairs, lamps, and acoustic panels that are all made out of PET bottles from Amsterdam’s canals.
A thousand bottles make a single high-end felt and foam-paneled table, while 50 to 60 make a chair. Considering the amount of plastic polluting bodies of water, furniture selections have ridiculous amounts of potential to grow. Even better, Plastic Whale models its furniture after marine life.
Ten percent of the profits… will be invested in local projects in other parts of the world that aim to use a similar economic model to turn plastic waste into something valuable. The resources generated from the furniture will go into more plastic fishing expeditions.
In an industry constantly on the hunt for the best textiles and constituents, trash is certainly their treasure.
Due to the detrimental effects of excessive carbon emissions, researchers are scrambling to produce cleaner energy alternatives. Prototypes of algae-powered wooden motorcycles are making an appearance in the hopes of perfecting eco-vehicles. The entire state of Florida is even attempting to power its homes with waste procured by Hurricane Irma. Now tackling the fashion industry, which turns out nearly 14 million tons of waste per annum, a Swedish power plant is burning discarded H&M products to produce fuel.
“For us it’s a burnable material,” said Jens Neren, head of fuel supplies at Malarenergi AB, which owns and operates the plant in Vasteras… “Our goal is to use only renewable and recycled fuels.”
In this year alone, the plant has burned 15 tons of H&M clothing unsafe for wearing. The incinerated waste, along with 400,000 tons of trash power 150,000 homes.
“It is our legal obligation to make sure that clothes that contain mold or do not comply with our strict restriction on chemicals are destroyed,” [said H&M head of communications Johanna] Dahl…“H&M does not burn any clothes that are safe to use.”
Trends may be exciting, but are equally as damaging, especially when they come to pass.
Getting strangers to clean up after themselves almost always involves an incentive. For Starbucks regulars, it’s a 5p charge on single-use cups. For Freiburg Cup users, its a 1 euro tip back for returns. But for the Swedish community, cleaning-as-you-go is simply an everyday habit — and it’s called plogging.
“It’s not that everyone should be running about picking up other people’s litter. It should be put in the bin in the first place. But I believe all of us should make an effort to keep our surroundings clean.” [said jogging group leader Anna Christopherson.]
The exercise, which has now gained traction in Scotland, pays homage to the Swedish word “plocka.” Meaning both to jog and pick up, the play on words is perfect. Mastermind Christopherson has even incorporated stretching into the mix.
“Quite a few joggers already take it on themselves to pick up litter when they see it in their running spots. Having a whole group of joggers doing this regularly could make a real difference to parks, paths and pavements.”
For some, giving back is less of a hassle when it’s convenient. For ploggers, it’s just another tick on the to-do list.
With dogs acting as cleaners for polluted rivers, it’s safe to say China isn’t taking in any more trash. As a large producer of waste, China has also become a dumping site for countries like Australia. In the hopes of getting clean, the world’s densest country is putting an end to foreign waste imports.
“The real opportunity in Australia is to create that circular economy that’s happening overseas and that’s what China is moving towards, where they’re saying we produce that material, we actually want to recycle that material and reuse it back in the economy,” said Gayle Sloan, the chief executive of the Waste Management Association of Australia.
The ban covers 24 categories of solid waste, among other things. In a single year, China will get to kiss 30 million tons of trash goodbye. However, the ban is forcing Australian recyclers to get creative. Recycling systems are getting a makeover, while startups are beginning to emerge.
“It’s unfair to create waste in the first instance without thinking where it’s going to go and how it’s going to be re-used.”
The ban may be tricky, but it’s also encouraging nations to take responsibility for the trash they produce. Anyway, it isn’t always another man’s treasure.
2017 has proven to be the year of anti-plastic ambassadors. Many groups are engineering alternatives for the material, whether to replace coffee capsules and even Legos. On the other hand, the Kenyan government wants to speed up the process by banning plastic bags entirely.
Beginning [August 28], if you’re carrying your groceries in a plastic bag or put out your trash in a disposable one, you could be fined up to $38,000 or be sent to jail for up to four years.
While the motion holds good intentions, it is economically stressing. Thousands of Kenyans work within the plastic industry. There are no cheap and readily available plastic alternatives.
“It’s not the plastic’s fault. It’s a lack of a system to collect the plastic and reuse it and make a value chain out of it beyond that first usage.”
The material may be affecting water, livestock, and public health, but the fact of the matter remains the same. Communities need to recycle. Let’s not forget that a single household’s segregated trash could make a world of a difference.
Massachusetts has become the first state to transform its abundance of trash into an energy hub. Other groups are working in smaller scales to refurbish waste into furniture, among other things. However, most seem to be ignoring the elephant in the room or, rather, the floating pile of trash in the Pacific Ocean. The Trash Isles, roughly the size of France, if not removed, may soon be recognized as an independent country.
Advocates of the Trash Isles receiving statehood argue that the island has (ever-growing) borders, and would form a government if needed… They’ve enlisted designer Mario Kerkstra to create a flag, a passport, currency (which would be called “Debris”), and stamps.
So, technically, the floating island of waste qualifies as a legitimate nation. But why go through the trouble? And why, specifically, is former U.S. president Al Gore rallying behind it?
“Ultimately, we want to shrink this nation… Let’s come up with biodegradable materials, let’s add a price on carbon, as well as laws and regulations to stop this wasteful practice of just throwing everything away and doing everything we can to create a circular economy.” [says Gore]
As with most bold gestures regarding the environment, it’s all about awareness. After all, who wouldn’t be moved by a country built upon trash?
Mount Trashmore, a landfill-turned-energy-hub in Massachusetts, seems to be encouraging other states to follow suit. (And it looks to be working!) Florida, recently hit by a massive storm, is using Hurricane Irma waste to fuel its power grid.
Combustion reduces the solid waste to ash, and the heat that’s produced runs steam generators. Much of the waste left in Irma’s path will burn, the energy released adding to local communities’ electricity.
While incineration isn’t the most environmentally-friendly method of trash disposal, it’s getting somewhere. Newer technologies are managing pollution, removing mercury and dioxin from waste. A 20% increase in garbage seen after Irma may be problematic, but at least the Department of Environmental Protection is doing something about it.
The county’s 565,000 tons of trash a year produces about 45 megawatts of power, or enough to run about 30,000 homes. “It pays for itself,” Byer said of Hillsborough’s waste-to-energy facility.
A hurricane’s trash is Florida’s treasure.
Since growing your own furniture became a reality, other eco-friendly furniture options have been coming to light. Startup Pentatonic is turning the contents of your daily trash bin into fancy sustainable furniture.
“Subject to what product, finish or performance we are looking for, we select trash based upon its properties and application possibilities, and then apply this technology using a number of precision manufacturing processes,”
Assembly of the pieces do not require tools — a valiant effort to eliminate toxic glues. The company is also introducing a unique “circular economy” system for customers.
“Our circular model, whereby we buy back our products from our consumers to recycle them into new products – that’s new in a design space.”
Pentatonic has put forward an incredibly smart initiative, winning over the hearts of environmentalists. The company has since raised £4.3 million in funding for its launch. Are you purchasing a trash couch? I’m certainly thinking about it.
If there is a better, cleaner, and faster way to make something, it’s probably the way to go. Synthetic wine is proving just that. The process uses no grapes but it just as tasty as any Sauvignon. Now, the brewing industry is following suit with Toast Ale craft beer, made from wasted bread.
Since Toast Ale launched in the U.K. in 2016, it has saved a total of 11 tons of bread from becoming trash there. In July 2017, Toast Ale expanded to the United States… By this time next year… Toast Ale will be saving 907 kilograms of bread a month in New York City alone, nearly 12 tons a year.
While the process may sound unusual, it has actually been common practice for some 7,000 years. Toast Ale works with existing breweries to avoid the hassle of building an entirely new facility. Also, the bread they work with is far from bad — so why have they been discarded?
Supermarkets demand that produce look a certain way, forcing suppliers to throw out perfectly good produce. Because the cost falls on the supplier, supermarkets are not incentivized to help reduce waste.
While I am throwing said markets some serious side eye, it’s businesses like Toast Ale that make living sustainably dough-able.
Many groups are taking action towards the worldwide landfills issue. Cosmetics brands are recycling trash to use in packaging. Smart labels are reducing plastic waste. Now, the infamous Massachusetts “Mount Trashmore” has been transformed into an energy hub.
Local officials estimate the new clean energy infrastructure installed on-site will offset the carbon emissions of more than 12,000 cars annually and will generate more than $300,000 in annual revenue for the city.
The solar panel arrays line Massachusetts highways and commercial plots. Landfills cause an increase in methane and pollute groundwaters, which has apparently created enough initiative for Brockton natives.
Over the next twenty years, these highway clean power plants are estimated to generate at least $15 million of revenue for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
It may be a handful–okay landfill of money, but we can’t allow dollar bills to be the driving force of change. It’s about time we truly get clean out of concern for the planet–not our bank accounts!