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Material innovation

We strive to operate our business responsibly, using carefully selected materials that are supported by initiatives which protect and replenish the natural resources used.

With the importance of a circular economy approach to design and manufacture becomes increasingly important for a sustainable future, we always like to keep a close eye on industry developments that introduce the benefits of sustainable materials to the mainstream.

Here’s our pick of some materials that have caught our eye…

Cork

Image: Sobreiro Collection via Dezeen

Cork is harvested from a specific layer of bark, usually on the cork oak tree. This layer, called the phellem layer, is composed of a hydrophobic material that has unique characteristics: it is impermeable, buoyant, elastic and fire-retardant. It is a material on the rise, increasingly favoured by many designers and architects for its compostable and recyclable properties.

Historically, architects from Frank Lloyd Wright to Eliel Saarinen and Alvar Aalto to William Massie have utilised the naturally environmentally sustainable material. Cork was first introduced in the built environment in 1904 as flooring, which was disseminated widely by the 1920s. Into the 1930s, Wright selected the bark for its natural properties and look, incorporating it into his organic architecture projects (most notably in the bathrooms in Fallingwater, completed in 1937).

Because of its versatile properties, it is now regaining traction in the twenty-first design world and is starting to be used in creative ways, from furniture to travel accessories and flooring to gilded wall coverings.

In 2018, Brazilian design duo Humberto and Fernando Campana created the Sobreiro Collection consisting of an armchair and three cabinets made almost entirely from cork to showcase the potential of cork as a design material – that it can be versatile, attractive and sustainable. While 2019 saw Jasper Morrison make a series of limited edition furniture items from cork block leftover from wine-bottle cork-stopper production to champion the material’s remarkable functionality as well as its unique atmospheric qualities.

Seaqual

Image: Camira via Elle Decoration

Seaqual is one of the most certified, earth-friendly fibres in the world. It is a high-quality recycled polyester yarn, made from recycled materials including post-consumer plastic bottles and plastic captured from the sea, contributing to preserving natural resources and reducing the waste in the planet’s water.

Yorkshire-based textile brand Camira began producing recycled fabrics 20 years ago, and has now teamed up with Seaqual, a global initiative that connects fishermen, scientists, NGOs and authorities to remove and upcycle marine litter. Camira’s new collection of fabrics are woven using ‘Seaqual’ yarn and each metre is made from the equivalent of 26 plastic bottles, with 16 shades to choose from.

Palm oil byproducts

Image: Nataša Perković via Dezeen

Oil palm is grown for its oil, which is extracted from the plant’s small seeds that are wrapped in fibre and housed inside kernels. A large amount of fibre is leftover from this process, which is mainly burned for energy or left on the ground as fertiliser. While it remains unlikely that global consumption of palm oil will drop radically, the challenge is to make its production more sustainable.

In a bid to turn the byproducts of the palm oil industry from an “environmental nuisance” into a sustainable material, Bosnian designer Nataša Perković recycled the fibrous waste from palm oil factories to create the Reclaimed Oil Palm collection. Designed to showcase the material properties of the newly developed oil palm-waste composite, Perković and her team at the Kyoto Design Lab aimed to use a minimal amount of material as possible while still maintaining structural stability.

Comprising a 3D-printed, stackable chair, three plates and a pendant lamp, the collection utilises high and low tech manufacturing methods ranging from 3D printing the chair which is constructed of a composite of oil palm tree fibre micro powder blended with polylactic acid to traditional paper-making and compression moulding techniques used to create the plates. The entire range can be easily recycled at the end of its lifecycle thanks to being made from one substance and its simple, pared-back design lends a timeless style to the range.

Coffee

Image: Zhekai Zhang via Dezeen

As ever-increasingly vast amounts of coffee are consumed by nations across the world, consider the tonnes of spent grounds generated and shipped to landfill, where they generate methane – one of the most potent greenhouse gases.

As an energy source, a fertiliser or robust production material, a variety of industries have been championing spent coffee grounds as a material to produce valuable, durable products for some time.

In 2019, scooping up the leftover grounds and experimenting with furniture and lighting production saw designer Zhekai Zhang use the caffeinated material to create marble effects on porcelain lights. He has developed a method of staining porcelain with used coffee grounds to mimic the texture of marble and applied the technique to a collection of lamps called Coffire.

Econyl

Image: noho.co

ECONYL® is made from discarded fishing nets, fabric scraps, carpet flooring and industrial plastic sourced from landfills and oceans around the world. It is sorted and clean to recover all possible nylon before being regenerated and purified to its original state. Embracing a circular design approach, the goal is once all products containing ECONYL® are no longer useful they can be entered back into the first stages of the regeneration process which recycles the nylon back to its original purity once more.

May 2020 saw New Zealand furniture manufacturer noho make their ergonomic noho move™ chair predominantly from ECONYL® as part of their mission to improve the wellbeing of both people and our planet.

noho tapped into ECONYL® nylon for its sustainable and regenerative qualities to reimagine conventional furniture design. The noho move™ chair was created to transform the traditional static nature of home furniture by integrating the dynamic ergonomic comfort of a premium office chair and sustainable design, to create a chair that flexes and flows with the body and can last a lifetime.

 

 

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