friday photo – stay inquisitive…

Friday photo no20 – stay inquisitive…


(image by claire potter)

SPOTTED – circular economy product experiments from the Punah Project…

Circular Economy design is still a terminology that is either unknown or unrelatable to many, yet this year at the London Design Festival there were a number of projects which aligned with these principles. One such project was the Circular House we previewed a couple of weeks ago, which was created from waste construction materials, and whilst wandering around the London Design Fair this year (formerly TENT and Superbrands), we found the rather wonderful Punah Project.


On a relatively understated stand created from corrugated cardboard, the Punah Project was a delight – and quite a contrast to the mash of ‘new’ and ‘updated’ things in the surrounding halls.

The project was incubated by Indian manufacturers, Godrej and Boyce, who looked at their various waste streams and realised that something needed to be done – to not only stem the flow, but maximise their potentials and values. The Punah (sanskrit for ‘again’) Project was born.


What is critical in initiatives such as these is that the Punah Project identified and examined each of the waste streams, however complicated, tricky or unsexy. From waste metal crimping pieces to waste oils and lubricants, each waste was catalogued and explored.


How could each stream be completely reinvented? 

punah-project-metal-embroidery-3On show at the London Design Festival there were a few circular economy solutions to the wastes from Godrej and Boyce – with transformations on a scale from literal and recognisable to highly process driven and utterly indistinguishable from the original ‘waste’.


Cotton gloves were turned into fabrics – woven into panels and chair seats, as was copper wires and waste electronics. Tiny pieces of crimped metal were painstakingly added to canvas to create reflective embellished pieces of embroidered cloth, which in turn, were made into ‘products’ – a clutch handbag and pair of shoes that were very far from their humble origins.



On the more abstract end of the scale, waste oils were reformed into stunning amber-like blocks, set like glistening parquet on the surface of the stand and graphite powder was incorporated into deeply matt black tiles, which had the added benefit of being conductive.


The Punah Project was a joy to discover – a really forward thinking movement by a manufacturer and delivered with skill and deep consideration to not only the craft of reusing materials, but the actual process of manufacture into more ‘high design’ materials. Let’s hope this circular economy reuse attitude replicates…


(images by claire potter)

SPOTTED – marine litter artworks by Ella Robinson…

Last week, we headed up to the London Design Festival to have a general ferret about, catch up with people, meet new people and find interesting circular economy based design. This week, we will be featuring some of our favourite finds from the festival, starting today at the London Design Fair with the marine litter artworks of Ella Robinson…


Well, it was inevitable wasn’t it? Given the studio focus on marine litter and all things plastic, it was no great surprise that we came across the beautiful work of Ella Robinson in the British Craft Pavilion. Hailing from Brighton originally, Ella works with constructed / multi media textiles and has a specialism in found objects.

Bright and vibrant, the pieces, which juxtaposed clean white frames or found driftwood with synthetic plastics, stood out brilliantly. Arranged by size, shape or colour, the pieces featured artefacts that had been beachcombed from around the UK – from the plastics to the driftwoods, which were paired with eye poppingly bright plastic ‘threads’.


Smaller pieces featured embroidery and logos and were certainly beautiful, but it was the larger, marine litter based pieces which grabbed our attention. Unsurprisingly. *ahem*

check out Ella’s website for more information, and to purchase her work.

(images by claire potter)

France to ban all single use plastics by 2020…

Last week there was rather a large announcement in the world of plastics. France is to ban all single use plastics such as cups, plates and cutlery by 2020, and is the first country in the world to do so. Retailers and suppliers will have from now until the 2020 deadline to rethink their single use plastic lines to ensure that anything labelled as ‘disposable’ can be composted in a domestic setting (and not just in the higher temperatures of a municipal composting setting).

Black Fork 1

Now, this is pretty huge news. First off, this is not that far in the future. Just three years. Plus, it appears to be relatively solid with few, if any immediate loopholes. We are sure that some manufacturers will try to find the wriggle room however… (just like The Card Factory in the UK, who cut the handles off their plastic bags, turning them into ‘sacks’ to avoid the 5p plastic bag charge…) So it is no surprise that the packaging industry in France has already claimed that this new ban infringes European free trade laws.

But like many drives, this is not without it’s flaws. Whilst removing single use plastics such as cutlery and cups from the market, even using biodegradable alternatives have their drawbacks. The land use that is required to make the base materials of biodegradable plastics such as maize is considerable, and there are also reports of how these ‘degradable’ materials do not break down properly in other settings, such as the ocean.

So what is the answer? Using reusables is certainly the way forward – the ‘zero waste’ movement has been gaining more momentum over the past few years as people recognise that any waste – be it plastic or otherwise – could, and should be avoided. Taking a spork, or small cutlery set is the way forward, yet this means a considerable behaviour change from the on-the-run convenience food that we have become accustomed to.

Yet nothing happens unless you start, so France – we applaud you – and hope that other countries follow in your plastic free wake…

friday photo – the value of an idea…

Friday photo no19 – the value of an idea lies in the using of it…


(image by claire potter)

Monday Makers – Smile Plastics…

Today on Monday Makers we have the fantastic Smile Plastics, who we love here in the studio. With innovative recycled plastic sheets of all types, they are the first people we turn too when we need to specify plastics. We actually have a project in Brighton on site at the moment where we have used one of their recycled plastic sheets… watch this space. So – who are Smile Plastics?

Hello there! Please tell us a little bit about yourselves.

Smile Plastics reimagines waste into decorative art materials used by designers and architects around the world for products, interiors and displays. It’s been going since 1994 and was one of the first companies globally to recycle plastics, gaining a strong reputation for its striking aesthetics and exquisite quality. The business stopped trading from 2011-2015 but has recently been taken on by two designers, relauching a core range of panels at London Design Week 2015. The business is now run by a very small dynamic team out of several locations across England and Wales and we’re hoping to consolidate over the next year.

Sustainable chopping board recycled plastics by Smile Plastics

What do you make?

Our core business is making 100% recycled plastic panels. We have a classics collection of materials made from a range of waste streams such as plastic bottles and yoghurt pots and we also work with clients to create bespoke materials based on their preferred waste stream, colour palette or pattern. We’re increasingly also offering design and build services and hope to focus on this more in the future.


What is your favourite piece/thing you create, and why?

We absolutely love coffee and have been developing materials out of recycled coffee waste for a few years and offer it as a bespoke material through Smile Plastics. We have fabricated some great pieces out of the material, most recently a coffee bar at Societe Generale with a recycled bottle top and recycled coffee panelling.


What inspires you?

We get really inspired by the language of materials, in particular the potential of waste and how our products can communicate engaging messages about sustainability to people, inspiring others to rethink waste.

What is your favourite place?

We love to be immersed in nature when we can from kitesurfing on the sea to climbing up mountains, and we’re happy to do this anywhere in the world!

Ok – you are rulers of the world for the day. What one law do you bring in?

Everything that gets made needs to be designed for recyclability so that we all operate in a full closed loop circular economy. (HEAR HEAR! – ed)

explorer-1m-wide-lowresWhat is your company motto?

It’s short and punchy: Reimagined materials designed to inspire.

Where can we see you next?

We’ve got a number of exciting projects coming up. If you haven’t made it already to the Wellcome Trust’s States of Mind exhibition then I would recommend it and they have used our yoghurt material beautifully as displays. We also have a small stand at the Surface and Materials show curated by Materials Lab in October in Birmingham so do pop along to see our materials there.

( / Instagram @smileplastics / Twitter @smileplastics)

a HUGE thank you to Smile Plastics – and stay tuned for our own reveal here on The Ecospot with a new studio project using lots of recycled plastic from Smile Plastics! 

(all images courtesy of Smile Plastics)

It’s Zero Waste Week – here are our top 5 zero waste tips…

We cannot believe it’s been a year since the last one, but Zero Waste Week is here! Founded by the fantastic Rachelle Strauss, the first full week of September each year is dedicated to Zero Waste – really trying to think about the waste that we all produce, and making positive changes that will hopefully last for the rest of the year. Look at the fantastic Zero Waste Week website for lots of tips, but to get you started, here are a few from us at The Ecospot…

1 – ditch the single use water bottles. This is a very quick and easy one to start, but my goodness it makes a difference. It is estimated that we use and throw away around 5,000 plastic drinks bottles every 15 seconds in the UK – the majority of which does not make it into the recycling stream. So – ditch the single use bottle and get a nice reusable bottle, like this stainless steel one by Klean Kanteen for Surfers Against Sewage.

And while you are over at Surfers Against Sewage, why not sign the online petition for the campaign Message in a Bottle, which is calling the UK Government to introduce a deposit return scheme for plastic bottles to get them recycled and out of landfill and the ocean! (PS – claire is a rep for SAS in Brighton now too!)

2 – say no to plastic straws! Ah, summer. The time of lazy afternoons slurping iced drinks in an effort to cool ourselves down. Except that plastic straw is a terrible example of single use plastics (SUP’s) – used for a tiny amount of time and then thrown away. Bonkers. Given that we go to so much effort to extract oil, isn’t it crazy that we use it for things like straws? So – as they say – just say no. Or bring your own – you can get some rather marvellous stainless steel straws that you can use again and again…

Image result for stainless steel straws

3 – get a reusable coffee cup… spotting a theme here? The quickest, easiest and often most effective way to get into Zero Waste habits is to look at the disposable things in your life and find an alternative. Recently, the television programme Hugh’s War on Waste, fronted by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall demonstrated how many coffee cups are discarded in the UK every year (around 2.5 billion). It also demonstrated how many people were optimistically putting them into recycling bins not knowing that a thin layer of polyethylene on the inner surface of the cup meant that it was not recyclable. Taking your own coffee cup can be a bit of a behaviour change at first, but once you are in the routine of sticking it in your bag (or leaving your house in the morning with a cup of tea / coffee in it), you will soon get into the habit. Plus, you can often show your support for your favourite charity and perhaps even get a discount on your coffee too. (Sea Shepherd cup from Keep Cup – £14)


4 – make your own lunch. And take it in a reusable container… We’ve done drinks. Now for the food. Buying your lunch out will not only cost more money, but the packaging that comes with ‘convenience’ is hard to swallow. Little plastic forks, endless wrapping, separate dressing tubs – it all adds up to a huge amount of waste. By making your own you are also tackling Zero Waste on two fronts – stopping buying stuff covered in single use plastic and probably eating something that may otherwise have ended up in the bin. Yesterdays leftovers. We really like stainless steel containers for our lunch, but a plastic tub will do to.

Image result for stainless steel tiffin box

5 – wash your face with a cloth. Not a face wipe. We remember as children being pestered by our mothers to wash our faces with our flannels. We each had one on a different coloured piece of ribbon and mum would soon know if we hadn’t as it would be as stiff as a board. And still, to this day, it’s one of the first things we do every day. But with the advent of ‘convenience’ there are many options when it comes to washing our faces, most notably and wastefully, the face wipe. These synthetic inventions are mostly not biodegradable and are a main contributor to marine waste. So – get a face cloth instead and use it each day. Team it up with a nice microbead free face wash and you’re set.

Image result for face cloth

So – there is our very quick and very easy Top 5 Tips for Zero Waste Week. We are sure that you can think of plenty more and do head over to Rachelle’s main website for Zero Waste Week to see lots more tips.

(images via associated links)

Success as the UK plans to ban plastic microbeads!

A few days ago, we wrote about the report by the Environmental Audit Committee which called for a recommended ban of plastic microbeads in cosmetic products. The microbeads, which are made from a variety of plastics and are often found in facial scrubs, shower gels and toothpastes, are so small that they bypass filters in the waste waster systems and end up in the ocean. An estimated 51 trillion pieces have accumulated in our seas and are starting to really impact wildlife as many fish and birds eat them by mistake. It is something that is really easy to stop – banning microbeads is the way forward.

Toothpaste 4

So, it was with great delight that an announcement on 2nd September 2016 from the UK government backed the banning of microbeads in cosmetic products – with no microbeads being allowed in scrubs and toothpastes by some time in 2017. A consultation will now begin with a timeline for the ban.

Good news?

This, of course, is great news and brings forward the voluntary ban that some cosmetic companies had already outlined for 2020. But there are still flaws. The critical part of this ban is the terminology.

‘Cosmetic product’ can mean many things to many manufacturers, plus microbeads are often found in cleaning products for the home and in industry – not just in our bathroom cabinets. So if we are banning microbeads in cosmetic products, surely we need to ban microbeads in all products?

As Greenpeace’s ocean campaigner, Louise Edge rightly stated,

‘… marine life doesn’t distinguish between plastic from a face wash and plastic from a washing detergent, so it makes no sense for this ban to be limited to some products and not others, as is currently proposed.’

Mary Creagh, the Labour MP and chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, agreed, saying:

‘I’m pleased to see the Government has finally agreed with my Committee’s call for a ban on microbeads. Fish don’t care where the plastic they are eating comes from, so it’s vital the ban covers all microplastics in all down the drain products.’

So we await the consultation, which is due to be published this week on just how blanket the microbead ban should be. Till then, check out our post on how you can avoid microbeads yourself…

London Design Festival 2016 – our top sustainable event tips…

It is that time of year again, and starting on 17th September, the London Design Festival is pretty much here. And each year it gets bigger, so we have looked through the line-up so far and picked out our top 5 sustainable visit tips for the festival…

  • Soak, Steam, Dream – Reinventing Bathing Culture with Roca:

A free photography exhibition at the Roca main gallery, Soak, Steam, Dream shows a series of architect designed bath houses from around the world which deal with different issues relating to water use and the rituals of bathing. It was this particular image above by Raumlabor in Gothenburg that caught our attention – the use of corrugated cladding and reused material was something very interesting to the norm… click here for full details.

  • The Circular Building – The Building Centre:

It is a very sad fact that the construction industry produces three times more waste than UK households, half of which is not recycled. Keeping materials at their highest value for longer changes this and is the main thinking behind circular economy processes – a way we should all be designing for the future. The Circular Building by Arup, The Built Environment Trust, Frener & Reifer and BAM pushes circular economy thinking at one of the largest scales – a full size building… click here for more details.

  • ‘Waste Not Want It’ Bloomburg Launches 5th Edition:

The WNWI initiative sees some of Europe’s most dynamic designers approach upcycling in innovative ways. Commissioned by Bloomberg and curated by Arts Co, 8 new furniture installations, made almost entirely out of Bloomberg’s own waste, are displayed throughout the building. This will be a really interesting exhibition – really bringing home not only what can be made from ‘waste’ (and how desirable it can be), but how much is thrown away… click here for more details. 

  • Ecotopia – A Sustainable Vision for a Better Future:

Ecotopia is a multi-sensory installation exploring the appeal of Utopian thinking in envisaging a sustainable future for our planet and society. It showcases the ideas of leading scientists, academics, designers and architects who are currently looking at climate change and sustainable solutions. A mixture of conceptual thinking, physical and virtual installations, Ecotopia could just be a window into our future… click here for more details. 

  • Plasticity Forum:

As we hurtle into the Anthropocene, plastic is that wonderous material that has helped to shape the new age. But what does the future hold for plastic? How can we harness the usefulness of a material that can take centuries to degrade and remove it from the single use association it currently has? The Plasticity Forum brings together a great panel of experts to discuss this and far more… click here for more details.

So – our first top five of sustainable events at the London Design Festival 2016. No doubt there will be more added to the list in coming weeks, and we will bring you our top picks as they are revealed…

(images via London Design Festival)

Friday photo – don’t be afraid of contrast…

Friday photo no17 – don’t be afraid of contrast…

don't be afraid of contrast

(image by claire potter)

***EVENT*** our last foraging walk of the year this Sunday!

Well, the summer has rocketed by, and we can’t believe that our last guided foraging walk of the year will be this Sunday. Starting at a location just outside the centre of Brighton, you can join us for a 2 hour or so foraging walk, where we will point out the 20 or so different things that you can eat (or really should not be touching!). Things that you will recognise and lots that you will not, this walk will equip you with the basics of urban foraging, including the rules you need to adhere by.

cherry plum foraging

Finished off with a little drink at the end, the walk starts and ends in two Brighton parks, with some street foraging in the middle… Kids are welcome (and go free with an adult too).

There are only a few tickets left for this walk, so if you fancy it – here is the link to our Eventbrite page… We hope to see you there!

(image by claire potter)

Microbeads – the issues and how you can avoid them…

As many of you will know, we are marine litter obsessives here at the claire potter design studio, with our own ‘passion research’ concentrated around the huge marine litter and ocean plastic issues. So we were delighted to see an appeal for the UK banning of cosmetic microplastics and microbeads hit the headlines on 24th August.

Toothpaste 4

The Environmental Audit Committee has stated, very correctly, that the microplastics which are under 5mm in size – often called microbeads can be found hidden in daily use items such as shower gel scrubs and toothpaste. These microbeads can now be found in the worlds oceans – as far away from human habitation as the Arctic, trapped in the diminishing sea ice, floating in the water columns and being consumed by all of marine life. For us, this is unfortunately something that we have known about for a long while, but it is very encouraging to see it exposed to such a wide audience in the top line news as an issue that needs addressing.

What is microplastic?

Now, the term microplastics covers many things, including plastics that have photodegraded into tiny pieces in the oceans, fibres that are lost from washing of synthetic materials like fleeces (up to 2g per wash) and the tiny beads which can be found in cosmetics, which are too small to be caught in filter systems. It is this last group that have been called out in the recent report – and if anything, the easiest to tackle. We just need to stop putting microbeads into our products. And when you consider that up to 100,000 microplastic beads can be washed down the drain from just ONE shower, a ban will go a very, very long way. It is estimated that up to 51 trillion pieces of microplastic have accumulated in our oceans. The reality is, nobody quite knows how much in there and we are just starting to learn about the consequences.

The US have already started a phased ban of the addition of microbeads into products, starting with a ban on all cosmetics containing microbeads from July 2017, and some would argue that it never should have taken so long for the UK government to begin action themselves. Countless campaigns such as Beat the Microbead from the Marine Conservation Society and similar campaigns such as Ban the Bead from Surfers Against Sewage have brought the issue to public attention over recent years, but this new report should push that rolling ball a little further towards legislation.

So, whilst the decision is made by the UK government on whether, and when to ban microbeads in cosmetics, what can you do in the meantime? We would advocate using the acronym from marine litter activists, Parley for the Oceans – AIR – Avoid / Intercept / Redesign. As consumers, we can choose to AVOID products with microbeads in.

How to go microbead free…

But of course, no product is going to emblazon the fact that is contains such damaging ingredients on the front of the label. No. You need to do a little investigation…

Look for products that state they have 100% natural scrubs in, such as the Original Source scrub range (which use almond fragments instead), or products by ethical manufacturers, such as Lush, who do a magnificent range of plastic free alternatives and offer refill and low packaging options.

Shower scrubs and face scrubs are quite easy. The harder ones to seek out are the microbeads in toothpaste. So – turn the packet over and look at the ingredients. If you see any of the below, you will likely have a product with microbeads in your hands:

– Polyethylene / Polythene (PE)
– Polypropylene (PP)
– Polyethylene terephthalate (PET)
– Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA)
– Nylon

See any of these? Put the product down. Vote with your wallet and find a better, microbead free alternative. They are there and they are likely to not cost any more than those with plastic in.

And of course, there is an app for that too. The Beat the Microbead app, which was previously just available in Europe, now contains information on those products that contain microbeads. Use the app to scan barcodes and find out more about the products…

It is critical that we minimise the plastic that enters our oceans as the damage that it is having on the marine environment is quite staggering and hugely unreported in general media. But as individuals we do not have to feel helpless. We can do our own small part. And personally banning microplastics and microbeads from our homes and workplaces is a great way to start.

***EVENT*** Settlement at Green Man Festival…

Last week was quite a different one for us here in the studio. Instead of sitting in our converted WC studio at our computers in Brighton, I (claire) was standing in a beautiful big top style tent in Wales, talking to people about the journey of marine litter. The Waterfront tent, curated for the Canal and River Trust formed part of the Settlement pre-festival at Green Man Festival and was the hub of all water based talks and workshops. We were delighted to be part of it all.

Sunday saw the drive up to Wales in glorious sunshine, with our new vintage tent soon pitched beside a mature pine in a lush and green field. Monday morning saw the start of Settlement at Green Man Festival and the planned activities at Waterfront – Geography field trips, talks on water purification and our bunch – a workshop on making jewellery from ghost gear recovered from Brighton beach, and a foraged cocktail workshop to round off the day…

Green Man Festival 16 marine litter 3

With families arriving, soon the tent was filled with kids and adults of all ages, engaging with the (cleaned) fishing netting and line we had brought up and turning the fragments into new pieces.

Green Man Festival 16 marine litter 2

With only a small amount of instruction, the kids were soon away – experimenting with charms (to show how fish get caught in the netting), braids, knots and plaits. The hour zoomed by.

Green Man Festival 16 marine litter 5

Then came the foraged cocktail workshop. Using our ‘larder’ of prepared syrups, cordials and juices, 40 people were taught the basics of how to use foraged produce in real recipes. And very alcoholic ones at that. With lavender infused vodka, honeysuckle syrup, rose syrup, blackberry vodka, crab apple syrup, wild mint cordials and more, four cocktails were made by each of the tables and the session (which got progressively rowdy) was finished off with a quince brandy or sloe gin slammer. It was a roaring success.

Green Man Festival foraging 16Tuesday dawned bright and hot again, with each of our workshops being booked out pretty quickly. The Foraged Cocktail one in particular was proving rather popular. Must have been my sparkling wit. *ahem*

Green Man Festival 16But whilst the festival goers were all there for a relax and some fun, I was delighted to see a HUGE turnout to my talk about the journey of marine litter ‘High Street to River to Sea’. Explaining about plastic, the origins of marine litter, the depressing facts and yet the positive aspects of how we can all be part of the sea change, the talk went down very well indeed. The second making workshop using marine litter was also fully subscribed, with another set of hugely creative pieces being made by attendees of all ages. It was great to talk to so many people about the issue and hear their own stories about the marine litter crisis.

Green Man Festival 16 marine litter 4

We have found that empowering people to make things and gain not only ownership but knowledge and pride is a very powerful thing. And each person that left that tent proudly wearing a bracelet or necklace made from marine litter will pass the story on. This is what it is about.

Green Man Festival 16 marine litter 1

The last session of our stint at Settlement for the Green Man Festival was another Foraged Cocktail workshop – strangely enough, another fully booked, roaring session.

All in all, a marvellous few days – thank you to Jo, Cara and the whole team for inviting us to be part of such a brilliant event. Roll on next year.

(all images by claire potter design)