the Ecospot Eco Gift Guide 2016 – day 11 – recycled bouncy castle tote bag from SAS

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…

Get yours for £12 a piece through the Surfers Against Sewage shop here.

(images via SAS)

the Ecospot Eco Gift Guide – day 6 – M-24 bags…

Designing something with a ‘waste’ material makes perfect sense – especially if that material is already into it’s second life. Keeping materials at their highest possible quality is key to the success of the circular economy – and also recognising what the material strengths are. So, bags and accessories made from truck tarpaulins? Perfect sense. It’s day 6 of our Eco Gift Guide and today we are choosing the lovely stuff of M-24 bags…

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With a great range of backpacks, messenger bags, wallets and accessories, M-24 create one off pieces from recovered UK truck tarpaulins that harness the very qualities a truck tarp has – strong, bright, waterproof.

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This means that each product is an individual thing – a term that M-24 have dubbed ‘anti-lemmingism’. We all want to be seen as individuals, but unless we have the ability to make our own stuff, this is a better option than the mass produced, cheaply made, high mark-up alternatives on the market.

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Plus, by not supplying retailers, but making their products available only through their website, pop-ups and their brand spanking new flagship store in Brighton, they are able to keep their prices very reasonable indeed as the retailer mark-up is eliminated. This also means that the cost of the high level finish and manufacturing techniques undertaken in the UK is feasible and products are available from just £5 for a keychain.

Eco Gift Guide M-24 store brighton, relcaimed tarpaulin bags brighton
M-24 Brighton, 15 Gardner Street, Brighton

A great business model – and great products. Perfect for someone who needs their luggage to be robust and trustworthy, waterproof and individual. And what could be better than telling someone their Christmas pressie has been made in the UK and it is the ONLY one in the world?

Anti-lemmingism is the way forward.

(images via M-24)

We’ve been at the Global Ghost Gear Initiative AGM…

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.

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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.

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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…

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the 2016 GGGI delegation!

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.

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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.

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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…

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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…

As always – watch this space!

(images 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.

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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.

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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.

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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’.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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’.

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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)

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…

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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)

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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.

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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.

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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)

***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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

***SPOTTED*** the Eco Cooler – an air conditioning unit made from plastic bottles…

Many of us are very used to solving problems with a few clicks of the mouse. So when the temperature rises, fans and air conditioning units are purchased and plugged in around the globe, delivering cool air to make like a bit more bearable. But what if you can’t do this? What if you live in a hot country but do not have the means to ask Amazon to deliver you a fan, or indeed, the electricity to plug it into. This is the case for thousands of people across the globe. But there is something that could help, and could be made wherever it is needed – an air conditioning unit made from plastic bottles, called the Eco Cooler.

Using no electricity at all, the Eco Cooler, developed by Ashis Paul at Grey Dhaka works by funnelling the hot air from outside through the narrow neck of the bottle, compressing the air and cooling it – for example – breathe on your hand and it feels hot. Blow on your hand and it feels cool. It’s the same, very low tech method.

And of course, as we write about a great deal here on The Ecospot, plastic bottles can be found literally in all corners of the planet. Using them, or even reusing them as in the Eco Cooler is a very good idea indeed.

Mounted on a piece of waste board, this incredibly simple addition can lower the internal temperature by over 5 degrees – with no electricity required. In just 3 months, over 25,000 have been installed – many from the free downloadable plans available to all.

A great invention indeed.

(images via Inhabitat)

SPOTTED – city waste recycled into notebooks by Barcelona Paper…

As we mentioned last week, we took a little trip recently to the rather glorious city of Barcelona, where we spied some fantastic products made from the waste of the city. Last Thursday we looked at the recycled banner wallets and bags of Vaho, and today we are looking at Barcelona Paper, who (aptly) create gorgeous little utility styled notebooks from recycled paper.

Created by a group of ‘professionals from the paper world (manufacturers, printers, bookbinders and creatives)  who are worried about the environment’, Barcelona Paper works in collaboration with the city council in Barcelona to capture and reprocess the waste paper into new products. 

With around 3 million people living and working in Barcelona (plus the tourists – like us), that is a stack of paper waiting to be reutilised. And with each of the products in the Barcelona Paper range being guaranteed to be 100% recycled and created from the city waste you know that you are helping to create a dent by purchasing one of the notebooks.

We could not think of better gifts to bring back for people. 

Coming in a range of different sizes and formats, the range is also available with both plain kraft and bright over printed covers in block colour or typographic patterns. Plus, they are pretty reasonable too – ranging from about €4 upwards.

So – visiting Barcelona? Hunt out the Barcelona Paper range in the Tourist Information centres, paper shops and artisan design shops. A great purchase to support a great initiative.

(images by claire potter and Barcelona Paper)

SPOTTED – reclaimed vinyl banner products by Vaho…

Last weekend, when the UK was imploding from the shock of Brexit, we were very pleased to be elsewhere – watching the events unfold from the sunny climes of Barcelona. And whilst we were there, we found a stack of innovative companies who are channelling the cities waste into new products. First up is Vaho, who use reclaimed vinyl banners as their base material.

In a similar way to Swiss company Freitag, who convert truck tarps into new accessories, Barcelona based Vaho take the advertising banners that proliferate through the vast city and convert them into bags, wallets, belts and cases – with each one being unique. Their tag line of ‘Trashion Bags handmade in Barcelona’ says it all.

Of course, the key factors of the vinyl banners are durability (strength and waterproofness) with the ability to print good images on the material, but despite their ephemeral nature when used for advertising a date specific event, they are notoriously hard to recycle. With metal eyelets and other co-mingled materials, the banners are often consigned to landfill.

But the bright colours they have, combined with their durability make them perfect for use in every day accessories. You don’t want your stuff getting wet, after all.

So it was with delight that we spotted a Vaho outlet store tucked away in the gothic quarter of Barcelona.

Vaho wallet 1

The first dilemma was to choose the shape we fancied – with a number of different configurations, zips, pockets and sizes available, the large array of accessories was mind boggling. And once you had chosen your model, you then had to choose your colour combination…

Some were quite plain, some had text, some referenced Barcelona landmarks and events, some were completely abstract. It took ages.

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But really, this is part of the charm. It was great to find a product that we could take home as a memento of our visit that was not only useful, but was made by hand in the city directly from the waste material generated advertising things to tourists like us. A sort of self fulfilling product purchase, but hey. We know this wallet will last for a very, very long time.

(images by claire potter and Vaho)

SPOTTED – Tauko Design – using reclaimed textiles in new, utilitarian fashion…

Fashion is often heralded as one of the biggest bad boys when it comes to wastefulness and a huge turnover of raw materials – telling us daily that the new thing is the best thing. Fashion moves quickly. The waste clothes soon follow. But not all fashion is created this way, and we were really interested to discover Finnish brand Tauko Design, who use reclaimed textiles in their collections.

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Based on waste textiles from the service sector, Tauko Design takes lots of sheets (often waste from hospitals), dyes them in vibrant colours and completely transforms them into new items.

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“In our creations, we show the minimalism of the Nordic design tradition as well as the coolness of the Finnish landscape. There is always a hint of Baltic humor in our garments; small colorful details that give them a unique edge. We love big pockets and guarantee that the clothes won’t limit anyone from biking, running, dancing or just having a rest. 
Each of our designs were made with passion and commitment, always keeping in mind to make them work for diverse occasions and various body types.
We want to keep it classy, yet make the day a brighter one!”

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What is really interesting is that the intro quote from Tauko says absolutely nothing about reclamation, recycling or reuse. It’s just part of what they do.

Tauko design 1

Many people have a preconception that ‘sustainable fashion’ has a particular ‘look’. Hair shirt and sandals is the phrase that we often coin for this kind of preconception – that all sustainable products are somehow stuck in the 1970’s. But of course, sustainable fashion can be anything but. We are totally in love not only with the ethos of Tauko, but their stunning designs too.

Take a look at Tauko Design’s main website to see the full range of their stunning garments…

(all images via Tauko Design)

SPOTTED – Precious Plastic…

Plastic. We speak about it a lot here on the Ecospot, which, for an eco design blog may first appear a bit odd. But it is one of the most prevalent materials on our planet, reaches to every corner of the globe, and despite being mostly derived from oil, is considered cheap and throwaway. It is possibly one of our biggest material and design challenges we have. So, our studio research is based around plastic a great deal, especially marine plastic. Plastic is precious and should not be a throwaway material – so we were really excited to see Precious Plastic launched by Dutch designer Dave Hakkens last week…

precious plastic logo

The culmination of over two years work, Precious Plastic aims to rethink our personal connections with the recycling of plastic. We are all very used to sticking plastic in our recycling bins and allowing our local authorities ship it on to recycling and reprocessing specialists, but we don’t do anything with it ourselves. We are divorced from the recycling process.

Exploring exotic waste

But instead of seeing plastic as ‘waste’ we could be thinking about it as a material ripe for recovery and reprocessing into new things. And let’s be honest, plastic waste is something we see floating around our streets and in our oceans no matter where we live. We certainly do not have a shortage of raw materials.

So what is Precious Plastic? Basically, Hakkens has designed a set of four, open source machines that mimic the types of large processing machinery used in plastic production but that use pieces of stuff that you can, again, find anywhere on the planet. Bits of old oven, old metal scraps, generic pieces that can be adapted to what you have.

Starting with a shredder to process your plastic, the three remaining machines allow you to DIY injection mould, extrude and compress your raw plastic to create a range of new forms. All open source with downloadable plans.

But as well as being a DIY project, Hakkens suggests that you could even set up your own mini design and make workshop using the system using recovered plastic and even ask people to bring their plastic to you, which you could repay with money or products.

As well as the hands-on and open source element of this project, we love the fact that Precious Plastic is exactly that – communicating the fact that this ‘throwaway material’ is everything but. It is precious and has a value. Imagine a world where all our waste had a value. That would be the first step towards a circular economy for sure.

Head over to Precious Plastic to learn more about the project, look at the videos, share the story and get involved.

(all images / videos via Precious Plastic)

SPOTTED – the marine plastic art print being launched by IKEA…

It appears to be IKEA week here on the blog, but there were two launches that particularly caught our eye. Yesterday we were looking at the new indoor gardening kit being launched by the global behemoth, today we are looking at their Art Event 2016 – and one particular print and artist in particular that uses marine plastic…

IKEA marine plastic print Mandy Barker 2

Mandy Barker is a photographer based in Leeds who, like us, has become obsessed with the masses of plastic based marine litter that is accumulating in our global oceans. Her photographic print for IKEA features marine plastic recovered from across the world, brought together into one, circular mass.

IKEA marine plastic print Mandy Barker

“It gives the impression of a universe, an almost hidden world under the sea, using the accumulation of plastic debris you find there.”

We find this a really poignant choice for IKEA. Whilst they do have a forward thinking sustainability policy their use of plastic in their products is incredibly well known. Sure, plastic means colour and durability, but the cheap cost of the products on the shelves do not scream of a product to be kept and cherished long term. Were there any IKEA derived marine plastics in the image we wonder.

Of course, once a product has left the stores it is up to us what happens to it – we hold the responsibility as the users, but even still, we think this marine plastic print by Mandy Barker speaks volumes.

Is this IKEA facing the responsibility for the impact of it’s products through it’s prints? Who knows.

But if this marine plastic print raises more of an awareness of this huge global issue, then that can only be good. We may even get one ourselves for the studio.

(images and video by IKEA)

Take away coffee cups – should they be taxed like plastic bags?

Morning in any large town or city. The streets, buses and trains are full of people winding their way sleepily to work. Needing a perk, many are carrying a take away cup of coffee from their preferred shop. The white and green of Starbucks, the maroon of Costa, the blue of Cafe Nero. Slurping down the last of the buzzy caffeine and soothing froth, the plastic lidded cups are deposited in street bins, office bins and recycling bins alike. The day begins. A typical day which sees over 2.5 billion take away coffee cups discarded in the UK each year…

Coffee to go

2.5 billion. That is a lot of paper cups and plastic lids. ‘But!’ I hear you cry, ‘they are recycled?’. Unfortunately, it is reported by Simply Cups, the UK’s only cup recycling service, that only 1 in 400 cups are actually recycled. And because the paper cups are actually coated on the inside by a very thin layer of polyethylene to enhance their coffeeproof qualities, they are not able to be recycled through normal means. If anything, they can contaminate otherwise recyclable batches of material – in circular economy terms – a monstrous hybrid of fused materials.

Design Your Own KeepCup
the KeepCup we designed using the online customisation and order tool…

One alternative is to ditch the take away cups altogether and use your own take away cups which can be reused again and again, like the Keep Cup. We are avid users of our Keep Cups, and are now in the habit of taking them pretty much everywhere with us. It is not a hassle as the sizes are barista standard, and many places offer a discount if you use your own cup. Quite often this is not advertised, but is automatic. But this week, Starbucks publicly announced such an initiative, which from April, will mean a 50p discount on your bill if you use your own take away cup. If this is ‘successful’ (and we are not sure exactly how this is being measured), it will be rolled out in more stores as a permanent feature.

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Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who has been running Hugh’s War On Waste, has been quoted as saying this is a ‘seismic leap’ from Starbucks, which could begin a real behaviour change.

Sea Shepherd

Of course, this is certainly great news, but do we need to take this further to create real behaviour change? Should the take away coffee cup be taxed in the same way as the plastic bag – and would this actively encourage people to take their own cups for refilling? What if we had to pay an extra 50p to get a disposable take away cup as well as getting a discount if we used our own?

Because the actual material in the 2.5 billion take away coffee cups that are landfilled each year is huge. And it needs to be redirected back into the system as we move to a more circular economy, and of course, reduced.

(images by Keep Cup)

Picture Organic Clothing – recycled and responsible snow apparel…

One thing about being a designer is that you are continually researching and noticing stuff. Everywhere. We barely switch off. Which is why last week, whilst in the mountains snowboarding, something caught my eye… Someone was sitting at a bar at 2300m above sea level with a jacket sporting the universal ‘recycling’ logo. Then I saw another. And another. Picture Organic Clothing was all over the mountain on snowboarders and skiers of all ages. I was very excited indeed and became quite a Picture spotter over the six days.

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So, why was I so excited? Picture, who were founded in France in 2008, are the forerunners of truly sustainable snow / surf / skate wear – making all their kit from recycled or recovered or organic raw materials, from cottons to polyesters. Whilst many brands do use some recycled or even organic content, this is often a bit of lip-service to the ‘eco’ section of their brand. With Picture, it is their whole brand.

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And I was also excited because of the volumes of people I saw wearing it. Often ‘eco’ products are hailed as being ‘for all’ yet actually target a very niche set of people, be it aesthetically or cost wise. Picture proudly display their credentials literally on their sleeves, but even through the style is very distinct (bold and geometric), there is no stereotypical wearer. They sit very stylishly on the mountain. Picture products are responsible and desirable.

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They are also comparable cost wise to other brands, so the sometimes argument of responsible products being out of the price range of consumers also does not apply. Yes, we are talking about a lot of money for a jacket (in three figures), but any good quality snowboard jacket will set you back this amount.

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Of course, when we think about sustainable products, the best option is to keep what you already have, but it is fantastic that when it does come the time to replace it, you have the best possible option available – a well considered product made from recycled or reclaimed materials.

An interesting feature of some of the Picture products is also their inbuilt ‘second life’ features, such as rucksacks that can be cut apart at the end of their usable life and transformed by the owner into everything from pencil cases to laptop bags.

As well as encouraging reuse through this ‘second-life’ option, Picture jackets also feature internal sections that are made from the offcuts of the making process, minimising wastage of precious materials on the factory floor. And if a piece of apparel does truly end it’s life, then Picture will take it into their own recycling system for recovery, reuse or donation. With a 95% same material content, the Welcome Jacket is the first 100% recyclable technical jacket on the market.

It is so great – and so exciting to see a brand that cares deeply, and is really thinking through the issues with truly sustainable apparel design. It is even more exciting to see it going from strength to strength and being adopted on a huge scale. People really do care. 

So – when my current kit runs out, guess what brand’s kit I will be wearing as I hammer down the slopes on my board?

(all images via Picture)