Image for Six smart homeware designs that take aim at our throwaway culture

Six smart homeware designs that take aim at our throwaway culture

You’ve heard of fast fashion, but what about fast homeware? In the UK, up to 22m items of furniture are thrown away every year, much of it cheap and made from non-recyclable materials. The designers behind these upcycled items are doing things differently

You’ve heard of fast fashion, but what about fast homeware? In the UK, up to 22m items of furniture are thrown away every year, much of it cheap and made from non-recyclable materials. The designers behind these upcycled items are doing things differently

1. Desk accessories from food packaging

bFRIENDS by Bene is a collection of desktop accessories made from discarded food packaging. Consisting of pen pots, trays and a stand for mobile devices, the collection is 3D-printed from 100 per cent recycled PLA, a cornstarch-derived bioplastic, which is diverted from landfill. At the end of the products’ lives, they can be returned to the company to be recycled again – or put in household recycling. 

During the 3D-printing process, by London-based company Batch.Works, the products are built up layer by layer in a single continuous line of bioplastic, rather than being cut away from a larger block or injection moulded. This means no waste is generated and they are manufactured easily on demand, minimising the need for storage space. 

Batch.Works’ print facilities are also wind-powered, meaning that production is energy-efficient, keeping carbon emissions during production close to zero. 

“Using 3D-printed post-consumer bioplastic fits into the new models of production and consumption that we all need to embrace,” says Luke Pearson, from Pearson Lloyd, the design company behind bFRIENDS. Prices range between €15 and €59 (£12.80–£50).

Image: Alex Saringson

2. Modernised mid-century furniture

Nicky Cash is the furniture artist and designer behind Leeds-based business Done up North. She updates early and mid-century modern furniture with striking geometric designs, all by hand in her converted mill studio. 

“My passion is to take pieces that have lived a life already and completely rejuvenate and reinvent them through my designs,” she tells Positive News. 

Done up North’s range includes reclaimed wood wall hangings, side tables, chests of drawers, sideboards and upcycled drinks cabinets, using environmentally friendly and non-toxic products wherever possible. Cash also passes on her refinishing techniques at the Done up North Design School. 

Image: Done Up North

3. Lamps from discarded umbrellas

An estimated 1bn umbrellas are broken, lost or discarded each year around the world. Their nylon canopies may take up to 1,000 years to biodegrade, which is in stark contrast
to their average useable lifespan – just six months. 

ANTI, which describes itself as ‘a waste design business’, creates elegant table and desk lamps from some of these discarded umbrellas. 

By adding some recycled and biodegradable elements, only 5 per cent of the final product material comes from virgin materials, says ANTI founder Mark Howells. 

Image: ANTI

4. Flat-pack redesigned

The furniture brand TAKT was founded in Copenhagen in spring 2019. It set out a disruptive proposition to the furniture sector: high-quality, sustainable design, sold direct to customers around the world, at fair, accessible prices. 

The brand launched with three chairs, including the Cross Chair – a stackable wooden chair that could be shipped as a flat-pack and assembled with ease. 

Since launch, TAKT’s products have embraced the same principles: natural, recyclable or degradable materials; sustainable production; a flat-pack distribution model to reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions; and the timeless elegance of Scandinavian design. 

Image: TAKT

5. Upcycled cushions

Kate Jackson and Louise Barnard founded Now,
Sit Down based on their belief that it’s possible to have nice things without hurting the planet – as long as businesses take responsibility for the products they bring into our world. “Change is needed, and for us, the most obvious place to start is in our homes,” they say. 

Since launching last year, they have focused on their range of upcycled cushions, underpinned by a cushion swap scheme. People send in their unwanted cushions in exchange for a £10 voucher to spend on a new cushion from their shop. All donations will be reused in some way, even if only as packaging. Prices start at £30. 

Image: Diana Stainton

6. Bowls from construction waste

“I read a report about two years ago and was shocked to learn that 56 per cent of all landfill in the UK was made up of construction waste,” says London-based designer Tim Walker. “I wanted to see if I could use this as a material for a new range of products.” 

He began trying out various casting techniques, using construction waste as well as lightweight building mortar. A range of bowls has resulted so far, with more experiments ongoing. 

Image: Tim Walker Studio
Main image: Alex Saringson

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