Selected by Kevin himself, we have been included on the very prestigious list for our circular economy work using marine plastics to create new products – in particular our lighting range, ‘The Smack’ which we exhibited at Clerkenwell Design week in May this year. The jellyfish type lights all use PET plastic bottles which were collected en-masse when we helped lead a beach and street clean in February and have proved a very thought provoking design indeed. As designers, how can we reinvent a material? How can we positively impact the crisis of marine litter? What can we all do as consumers?
We had some great comments from Kevin in the selection process too… ‘We should not just recycle (plastic bottles) but reinvent them, says McCloud, “and upcycle them into beautiful and useful objects”.
So – you can see The Smack exhibited at Grand Designs Live at the NEC in Birmingham from 11th – 14th October and again in 2018, 5-13 May at the Excel in London.
Thank you again to Kevin McCloud for choosing us as a Green Hero!
(images courtesy of Grand Designs Live + by claire potter)
Yikes. Where have the last two months gone? It feels like an age, yet only yesterday that we were down in the underground cells of Platform for Clerkenwell Design Week 2017, showing the latest iteration of our marine plastic product research work – ‘The Smack’.
Made using 365 recovered Lucozade Sport bottles, split into their component materials and remade into fittings reminiscent of jellyfish, ‘The Smack’ went down an absolute storm. We had a huge amount of interest not only in the installation, but the story of marine plastic itself. Press interviews, TV interviews and a spot on a documentary – as well as hundreds of conversations with people staggered at awfulness, yet beauty of the piece and countless tweets and instagrams. #TheSmack was well shared!
What was really encouraging was the amount of people who knew about the wider issue. Some people knew about the Parley x Adidas marine plastic trainer, others had been watching the Sky Ocean Rescue project and some had even seen the latest marine plastic documentary – A Plastic Ocean. Awareness is certainly growing.
The few days of the event zipped by, but we are already booked in and planning what we will be doing for Clerkenwell Design Week 2018. We will be back down in Platform again with our next iteration of products made from reclaimed marine plastics. We have a VERY exciting project in the pipeline that you will see popping up here very soon… watch this space as they say.
Where has the year gone? It seems like only yesterday we were up at Clerkenwell Design Week for the first time with our ‘Ghost Gear Chandelier’ we built in collaboration with the World Cetacean Alliance and the Global Ghost Gear Initiative. And here we are – back in May – and heading to Clerkenwell Design Week for the second time with our new iteration of products made from marine litter – ‘The Smack’.
This year, we have utilised 365 plastic sports drinks bottles that were picked up on an SAS supported beach clean we led in February with the Brighton and Hove Eco Supper Club – which was run on the same day as the Brighton Half Marathon.
Now, it has to be stressed that the Brighton Half Marathon HAD organised help to pick up the discarded Lucozade Sport bottles cast aside by the runners, but there were too many bottles and too few people helping too late in the day. Bottles were strewn over the beach and promenade on a blustery day – and we only made a dent in the bottles that we could see.
But even when the bottles were picked up by the organised contractors, they were not being separated – or emptied, so would have been consigned to the local incinerator. As circular economy designers, we were not going to let that happen to the bottles our group had collected, so they were brought back to the studio to be emptied, washed, sorted and re-processed.
Many, many hours and 7 different processes later, we have created ‘The Smack’ for CDW17 – a series of 30 plastic jellyfish lights made from the Lucozade Sport bottles, which have also just been identified and reported as being the second worse item for recyclability in the UK. This exhibit is to demonstrate exactly how much you have to do to a sports drink bottle to make it re-usable, and how we could start to rethink the material…
So – come and say hi to us at Platform from Tuesday 23rd May – Thursday 25th May – and see ‘The Smack’…
(and if you want to see our press release and download images, you can do so here…)
We are big fans of giving gifts that are useful, and that promote a bit of positive behaviour change. When the 5p plastic bag levy was introduced in October 2105, many people moaned that they would just not be able to remember a reusable bag, but fast forward to July 2016 – just six months in, and single use plastic bag use dropped 85% in the UK. That is quite staggering. So if we are all taking our reusable bags to the shops most of the time, a gift of a reusable bag that is a little different from the norm could be a perfect option. It’s day 11 on our Eco Gift Guide and we have selected the Bouncy Castle Tote Bag from Surfers Against Sewage…
Made on the Isle of Wight by designers Wyatt and Jack, co-branded with an SAS logo and the ‘Break the Bag Habit’ tagline, these fantastic, strong tote bags are made from actual bouncy castles that have been retired from use.
Available in 7 different colours, the tote bags feature strong black webbing handles and measure a very useful 35cm x 35cm. Plus, by the nature of the material, the bag has a waterproof outer, so is perfect for sitting on the floor or using as a kit bag.
We love these bags as they use materials that have a great nostalgic link, and make advantage of their strength, colour, waterproof nature and hard wearing qualities. They will last a very long time!
Plus, these bags are a great choice if you need to post a gift to someone – flat, unbreakable and very useful…
The Autumn Beach Clean Series from Surfers Against Sewage, running across the UK throughout the whole of this week will see over 250 beach cleans completed by thousands of volunteers – taking marine litter off our coasts and into our recycling systems.
In Brighton and Hove this year we have 5 beach cleans in the diary, and we led the second of the two cleans yesterday from 12-3pm, which was attended by a group of people on their lunch breaks, people passing by and people who just want to see a cleaner beach.
Even though the temperature has cooled and we are very much out of the main tourist season here in Brighton, there were the usual suspects in our beach clean. Cans, straws, food packaging and of course, single use plastic bottles. Each recyclable element was stripped out of the 12 bags of collected rubbish and sorted to allow them to get back into our recycled material stream.
But, as with all beach cleans, there were also a few interesting pieces to be seen. A large chunk of cement and rope (that was actually collected from the beach by my dad!) had a bit of an appearance of a heart, or an angel fish, plus we also collected some pieces of aquarium plastic foliage (oh the irony) and even a bright yellow walrus.
At the end of the clean we all tucked into specially iced Surfers Against Sewage chocolate chip cookies and spoke to the many passers by about the issues. One of our volunteers exclaimed that it was not rocket science – you just walked and picked stuff up… the passers by agreed and many took a small bag to do their own mini beach clean as they walked.
We look forward to reporting the statistics from all the Autumn Beach Clean Series this year – how many tons of rubbish will be removed – and how many single use plastic bottles were recovered. If we had a deposit scheme for plastic we are sure that there would be infinitely less… *
(images by claire potter)
*want to join the campaign calling for a deposit return scheme on single use plastic bottled? Check out the SAS Message In a Bottle campaign here…
It’s finally here! From 24th – 30th October, at beaches all across the UK, the Surfers Against Sewage Autumn Beach Clean Series will be mobilising thousands of volunteers at over 250 venues to clean up the scourge that is marine litter – and particularly plastic, which remains in the environment indefinitely…
Here in Brighton and Hove, we have a fantastic 5 cleans taking place, starting on Saturday 22nd October and running till Sunday 30th October, with a huge bumper beach clean and party courtesy of the English Disco Lovers at Hove Lawns.
As Claire is one of three new volunteer Regional Reps for SAS in Brighton and Hove, we will be running the beach clean on Monday 24th October from 12-3pm, starting at the beach behind the King Alfred in Hove.
So – come along! Pop in for 10 minutes or three hours – whatever you can manage, and help on a beach clean to spread the word about marine litter. And if you’re not in the Brighton and Hove area do not despair – check the main Surfers Against Sewage Events page to find a clean near you…
That’s right folks – we’ve been away. Apologies for the radio silence these last couple of weeks, but things were rather hectic here at the studio, including a rather lovely trip from Brighton to Miami for the third Global Ghost Gear Initiative AGM. Coming together with people from all over the world, we were there as representatives of the World Cetacean Alliance, speaking about the different outreach projects we completed in 2016 based around marine litter.
Ghost gear is the term given to abandoned, discarded or otherwise lost fishing gear, which causes continued entrapment, entanglement and ingestion issues of all species. As modern fishing gear is plastic based, it does not degrade, so continues to fish for decades… The GGGI brings together the vast amount and variety of people needed to find solutions to these issues – from industry, fishers and policy makers to recyclers, NGO’s and manufacturers.
Arriving in Coconut Grove, Miami, Day one of the GGGI AGM started with a series of inspiring presentations from World Animal Protection (the current Secretariat) and break out sessions with each of the three working groups – Building Evidence, Best Practice and Replicating Solutions.
Due to the studio’s work, and activities with WCA, I sat into the review from the Replicating Solutions Group who reported a series of brilliant projects from around the globe, concentrating on ghost gear removal and recycling. There was much discussion about what worked well and how activities could be improved and scaled up.
After lunch, we sat back in our working groups, where I was officially adopted into the Replicating Solutions group – the largest (and loudest) group of the three. Figures. We then started to plan out our voyage for 2016-2017, coming up with some rather audacious goals for new projects, scaled up projects, new activities and new forms of communication. Day one finished and we were exhausted…
Day Two dawned hot and bright on the Miami coast and we started the final sessions reporting back to the other working groups about our plans – and starting to link the dots between the activities that both Building Evidence and Best Practice were planning. Things took shape. Comments were made, plans were set.
One of the last sessions was the Lightning Talks – a set of ten 5 minute talks from different members of the GGGI community. From gear recovery projects to working with developing countries, the logistics of gathering and storing ghost gear picked up at sea and what needs to be considered when transporting it for recycling – each person whizzed through their 5 minutes.
I was delighted to be reporting with Natalie Barefoot from CetLaw about the work we had both undertaken with WCA over the past year – from the interns who travelled to work with whale watching groups to educate visitors on the issues with ghost gear to the Ghost Gear Chandelier we made earlier in 2016 and exhibited at the Clerkenwell Design Week in May. The link-up between WCA and the Brighton Etsy group was also presented, along with the wonderful Lulu by Designosaur – one of my most treasured pieces of jewellery.
It was also great to see the range of products that are currently made from recovered ghost gear – either in an unprocessed form, or as a raw material in a mini pop-up exhibition. From Econyl based recycled nylon swimwear to door mats, bracelets and of course, Bureo, who were showing their skateboards and sunglasses. I was rather taken with their Yuco glasses…
A final sum up and we were done. It was great to be invited to be part of such a great group of pro-active people and we cannot wait to get going with the work we have got as part of our WCA / GGGI Replicating Solutions working group activities…
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?
On 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…
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.
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).
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…
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.
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)
What 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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.’
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.
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…