The issues of recycling and circular economy are part of the most current thinking of designers. A trend that was widely observed last September at Stockholm Design Week, both in the projects underway by such iconic studios as Form Us WIth Love, and in the presentations of several new products coming out of the workshops and showrooms of local designers.
For the design studio/collective Form Us With Love, now based in its brand new creative space in Stockholm, the big question now is how design can help companies think about better ways to manage waste and think about recycling.
Recycling at the heart of design
For some time now, the Stockholm studio Form Us With Love has been collaborating with major Swedish brands such as the interior design manufacturer Baux, with whom it has notably designed and developed a totally ecological acoustic insulation material, Acoustic Pulp, which combines the fundamental qualities required by this industry (fire and moisture resistance in particular) with total biodegradability.
In the wake of this collaboration, Form Us With Love realized that one of the main challenges today is how to process the huge amounts of existing waste into a new source of raw material. With Baux, the studio worked on textile scraps to imagine a reusable acoustic felt material to create insulating panels for professional environments. In the same vein, Form With Us Love is also currently working with Ludwig Svensson, a company specializing in technological materials for greenhouse agriculture, on a project to create traceable felt from recycled climate screens. Form Us With Love also recently collaborated with IKEA to create the Odger chair from recycled plastics and reclaimed wood chip waste.
Form Us With Love and the Glass Kingdom
The main concern in recycling the huge amounts of industrial waste is that it is sometimes impure, because it is a mixture of different materials or contains toxic materials, which makes the recycling processes very complex. This is the case for glass, for example, in which arsenic or cadmium can be found, making the reuse of this material particularly sensitive. Form Us With Love therefore partnered on a research project with Rise, a glass laboratory, and the Swedish industrial group Ragn-Sells, a recycling specialist, on how to recycle the many glass industry wastes still stored at the historic industrial sites in Småland, a region in the south of the country historically known as the “Glass Kingdom”. The goal of this consortium is to find technical ways to separate toxins from glass, but for Form Us With Love, the objective is primarily to identify and provide practical insight into how this decontaminated glass could be recycled into functional and mass-produced objects. As Jonas Pettersson, director of Form Us With Love, says, “The diversity of expertise in this group provides a holistic approach to the problem that benefits everyone. We learn together, learn from each other, and try to put this new shared knowledge to use in new applications.”
Projects and prototypes in progress: Unit System
Collaborative structure par excellence, associated with different companies as we have seen, but also bringing together different designers, Form Us With Love took the opportunity of the Stockholm Design Week to present in its brand new workshop some design projects in the process of prototyping or conception. Among them is the Unit System project, which questions the longevity of objects packaged to contain liquids or products unfit for human consumption (e.g. washing powder). Often, these containers are thrown away after use. Form Us With Love is thinking about how their lifespan can be extended through reuse (kind of like refills that you could refill and reuse). Metallic materials, such as aluminum or steel, are particularly studied for their ability to be “reconfigured” multiple times and constitute in this sense the heart of the system.
Focus on four design and recycled furniture items
A look at four collections and furniture presented at Stockholm Design Week that particularly highlight the notion of recycling and circular economy, both in their composition and in their principles of reuse.
Launched by the Flokk brand, the new HÅG Tion chair series is characterized by its manufacture with 75% recycled materials (94% for the plastic materials of the seat and backrest, and 98% for the aluminum parts) and sustainably produced wood. It was created as a collaboration between Flokk’s in-house design team (led by Christian Lodgaard) and three other design studios, including Hunting & Narud. Its design with a minimum of components – which limits its production time and energy consumption – and without glue facilitates both repair and recycling. In addition, the paints used for the wide range of colors of these practical and elegant chairs are also 100% recycled and contain no chemical additives.
The Nomole high chair model, created by designer Ronja Reuber for Offect Sweden, is visually characterized by its minimalist, uncluttered and almost playful appearance with its foot bar and short, slightly unhooked backrest, drawing a very graphic and linear silhouette. Its very name stems from this temptation of “No More, No Less” which applies to its manufacture itself. This one is indeed based on the use of sustainable and recyclable materials, and aims as Ronja Reuber specifies it to “go to the essential, using the least possible material without sacrificing the expressiveness or the use”. The Nomole chair can thus be adapted to different environments, professional or domestic, and can be easily modified, repaired or even reused in new applications.
From designer Kristina Tjäder’s Ekbacken Studios, the Eel lounge chair (and the related Eel Side and Octopus Side coffee table models) features a fun twisted look, evoking the flowing, curved forms of the eel (or octopus) giving the product its name. However, this model and the activity of Ekbacken Studios are part of a generalized principle of circular economy that does not only refer to the sea for simple aesthetic reasons. In the wake of the Peniche Ocean Watch initiative and the research in new materials conducted by Ocean Techno Hub (two structures that initiated the arrival of Ekbacken Studios), the driving idea is to allow through this design of furniture the recycling of old fishing nets collected directly from local fishermen in Portugal. From these, a new material, PENYLON©, has even been created.
The new Gemla Open Chair model, designed by Gemla, one of the oldest Swedish furniture brands, is characterized by its entirely handmade bentwood technique. This technique, associated with the use of specific wood species (beech, ash), is particularly economical both in its carbon impact and in its use of raw materials. This results in very little loss of wood, and therefore waste. It allows the creation of very light products, but also particularly structured in their shape, and is fully in line with a virtuous circle of durability combining strength and solidity of the product. It is also optimized for inventory management, as each Gemla Open chair is made to order only.