A rundown of the need-to-know new technologies, materials, approaches and working methods affecting the creative industries

Excess waste is a growing concern. According to the statistical office of the EU, each person generated 475kg of municipal waste in 2014. Alongside governments, global makers, designers and brands are tackling this challenge by looking at inventive ways to repurpose waste and use it as a raw material.

Homes become laboratories where new ideas for products made out of discarded materials can be tested on a small scale, and their potential to become new, better standards for a more sustainable world can be measured. This is an opportunity to structurally rethink the way we build our houses and, at the same time, investigate how we can create more affordable housing using less expensive construction materials.

Recycled Surfaces, Form Us With Love for IKEA

Last year, in collaboration with independent designers, furniture giant IKEA launched the PS collection of 60 products made from recycled wood, glass, and recycled plastic bottles. The range includes the first kitchen cabinets to be made entirely from recycled plastic bottles and reclaimed industrial wood, created by Stockholm studio Form Us With Love. During the product development process, the brand and its suppliers opened the doors to their factories to give designers a better understanding of different materials and manufacturing methods. This led to the identification of previously unexplored opportunities to give new life to industrial waste.

Waste-based bricks by StoneCycling

According to the global non-profit Textile Exchange, 95% of the textiles we use could probably be recycled, while only 25% actually are. Danish startup Really uses end-of-life textiles, including cotton and wool from the fashion and households industries, to create Solid Textile Board, an engineered high-density material which acts as a substitute for wood and composites in furniture and architecture.

Danish architecture firm Lendager Group promotes circular construction as a viable option. Its Upcycle House project uses empty shipping containers – redundant because of the uneven import/export balance between Europe and Asia – to make sustainable housing. Reducing waste and using cheap and easy-to-find materials in this way means lower house prices. Adopting a similar approach, Dutch designer Tom van Soest explores the potential for new building materials made from waste with his WasteBasedBricks building blocks, made out of discarded materials collected from the surroundings of the factories he works with. These bricks have been used for projects such as a bar at Belgian co-working space Going East and a new house in Rotterdam designed by architecture firm Architectuur Maken.

Trending Terazzo by Bottle-Up, Zanzibar

Similarly, Zanzibar-based Bottle-up Foundation is tackling the problem of glass waste, generated by tourists visiting the island and very difficult to process or recycle because of the lack of local equipment and infrastructure. It has created the prototype product Bottle I Brick, a building block made from glass and cement. Applying the principles of the circular economy, even the residual glass fragments created during the production process are used to produce sustainable furniture. To boost the local economy, Bottle-up Foundation is also helping local hotels to create their own products, instead of ordering furniture from international companies.

This new generation of furniture and construction materials offers endless design opportunities. It shows that a new, more sustainable economic model is not only possible, but already happening, as we embrace a different way of looking at our homes, buildings and cities.

Words → Elisa Cecilli