Why we can recycle plastic that would otherwise go to waste

We turn your plastic waste into high-quality furniture. Even if the plastic is not of the perfect quality or has a small contamination. This way, we save plastic that would otherwise go to waste. An example is our recent collaboration with Fairphone. During this project, we converted broken phone cases into a series of functional objects. The Delta is one of those objects. We designed it in collaboration with Studio Voronoi. The Delta is a multifunctional piece of furniture that can be used both as a stool and as a side table.

Why we can recycle plastic that would go to waste otherwise

Nowadays, more and more people separate their plastic waste. Unfortunately, only a very small percentage of that plastic waste is recycled. Partly because of various complications that appear during the recycling process. Contamination of the plastic, for instance. Our 3D printer offers a solution to this problem. Due to the size of our 3D printer, we can print large objects. The large scale enables us to recycle plastic that would otherwise go to waste. For us, a small contamination in the plastic is no issue.

This is precisely the reason why Fairphone ended up at vanPlestik. The company had inquired about recycling their covers in various places. However, the metal logo that each case is provided with, always proved to be a problem. Fortunately, we did succeed in recycling the covers. It resulted in a series of functional objects. The origin of these new products is still clearly visible. The covers have taken on a completely different shape, but the recognizable colors have remained the same. 

Why we can recycle plastic that would go to waste otherwise

Back to where it all started, the objects have found a place at the Fairphone headquarters in Amsterdam. The fact that the company now has new objects from their own waste, ensures added value. In short: the circle is complete.

Want to get your hands on a Delta? Head over to our webshop.

This is what makes every Wavy Table unique

Just as no wave in the ocean is the same, every Wavy Table is unique in it’s shape. This side table made of packaging material, is created with a special technique. The Wavy Table is a so-called parametric design. It offers us the possibility to digitally adjust the design before printing. Sounds complicated? Let us take you through the process.

This is what makes every Wavy Table unique

In an age of mass production, consumers seek something unique for their homes. The Wavy Table makes this possible in a very efficient way. Unlike various recycling methods, the start-up costs for a customized design are low. We can digitally adjust the parametric design to your wishes. Our 3D models are programmed with adaptable sliders. Every time we produce, we adjust the sliders. As a result, the 3D model changes and a different design is exported. In other words, no Wavy Table is the same.


Not only is every Wavy Table unique, the design is completely circular. For example, let’s say after a number of years you’re fed up with your Wavy Table. No problem. We can get you a new design, using the same material. Simply return the Wavy Table to our workshop. From here, we reshred the material and print a brand new piece of furniture. 

Want your own unique Wavy table? Click here to go to our webshop

HEMA is taking steps towards zero waste

Recently we proudly presented our new collaboration partner: HEMA. This retailer has great ambitions in the field of sustainability. Earlier this year, HEMA announced to ban all single use plastics from their stores from 2020 onwards. How come sustainability is such an important topic for the company? And what can we expect in the future? Innovation manager Fabeel Butt provided us some inside info.

First of all: how did sustainability become such an important topic for you personally? And how did that guide you on your career path?

It all started during my bachelors in International Business. I did a minor in South Korea, where I followed several courses on globalization. I noticed how unfair the trade chains are divided and I wanted to do more research on that topic. That’s how I ended up at Fair-trade. After my internship, I was offered a job there and worked for the company for five years. As business development manager I worked with partners such as Tony’s Chocolonely and Ben & Jerry’s. 


At a certain point I realized I was interested to find out how I could make an impact from within a brand or retailer. As I would be in a position to contribute to strategy and policy. I did this at supermarket chain Lidl for a short period of time. Soon afterwards, I started working for HEMA, and have been working here for almost three years.

What is the best thing about working for HEMA?

HEMA has a young, dynamic team. Working here offers a lot of possibilities and taking initiative is appreciated. In addition to the set goals there’s room for me to develop new projects like this one. Our collaboration with Too Good To Go, the app that aims to prevent food waste, is another example. 

HEMA announcing their collaboration with Too Good To Go
(Image via HEMA.nl

You recently changed roles within HEMA. What’s the difference between being Sustainability manager and Innovation manager?

As Sustainability manager I was responsible for the policy and implementation of raw materials. In my current role, I am researching new business models. This involves answering questions. For instance: what would the customers of the future want? And how can we anticipate and respond to this? Many of these innovations have common ground with sustainability. Therefore, the two meet within the Innovation and Sustainability team.

What does a typical day look like for you?

In the innovation department, we are currently working with a ‘core team’. It’s a multidisciplinary team of colleagues (including experts in the field of digital innovation, new services and sustainability) and a third party. The core team is responsible for validating new concepts with our target audience, and bringing the pilot to a successful conclusion. We are currently working on setting up a service for young parents. Have a look on lab.hema.nl to find out more. 

Why is sustainability such an important topic for HEMA?

As a retailer, we have a certain responsibility with regard to sourcing our products. We want to know where our products come from and from what materials they are made of. In addition, we receive more and more questions from our customers on this topic.  Take our use of plastic, for example. A lot of customers are sharing their concerns with us. I think we should have the right answers to their questions.

 

Reusable straws
(image via the HEMA instagram)

HEMA has recently announced that it will replace all its disposable plastic products with more sustainable alternatives. Quite a drastic decision. How did this come about?

Firstly, it will be obligated by law from 2021. However, we felt that it would be feasible to make a move earlier. Ambitious as we are, we decided to be one year ahead of legislation. We’ve set a target for nine assortment groups. At the moment, we are still on track to achieve that goal.

Why are HEMA and vanPlestik a good match?

”We both think in terms of possibilities instead of limitations. vanPlestik is a frontrunner when it comes to circularity and demonstrating that waste can serve as a valuable raw material for a new product.”

vanPlestik has a good business sense and contributed in setting up a business case that works for both parties. It provides vanPlestik a good learning process that is cost-effective at the same time. Furthermore, it offers us an affordable alternative to conventional solutions.

Can you tell us something more about how our collaboration came about?

One of my ambitions was to turn the HEMA Support Office into a zero waste office. At the moment we are not separating the waste well enough. Together with vanPlestik we have found a solution to this problem. The next step is to change the mindset of my colleagues. 

Hema Support Office (image via ndsm.nl)

What are HEMA’s plans for sustainability for the rest of 2019?

This summer we will introduce a number of products made of recycled plastic. In addition, there will be several launches in the field of food, such as vegan options. Besides that, we’re going to make our packaging more sustainable. It will increasingly be made of recycled plastic instead of conventional plastic.

If you may dream, what will HEMA look like in 10 years (in terms of sustainability)?

In ten years we have made big steps in the field of circularity and we will have progressed in making our products more sustainable. At the moment; products are being made, used and subsequently not recycled. In this process, material is lost. In the future, we will recycle more and more raw materials from the products we sell. Ideally we should have a minimal impact on the climate and can ultimately make a positive change to society and the environment. 

Curious what our collaboration with HEMA will look like exactly? Keep an eye on our social media to stay up to date! 

The power of one

Often people think of environmental issues as too big to be able to make a difference as an individual. Artist Peter Smith is on a mission to change this mindset. We meet him in his workshop, where he tells us all about the philosophy behind his work: ‘the power of one’.

The World of Litter

Strangely enough, nobody saw plastic waste as an environmental issue before the year of 2012. But Peter Smith did. To raise awareness on this issue and “to enter the ports of the media like Odysseus once entered the ports of Troy”, he created an artwork in the shape of a globe, made of litter. It was a great success. The ‘World of litter’ generated 10 million media impressions and traveled through other cities in the Netherlands subsequently.

No act is too small to make a difference

For many organisations in the Netherlands, the ‘World of Litter‘ played a role in the process of acknowledging that plastic waste is a big issue for the environment. But that wasn’t enough. To really make a change in people’s mindset, Peter Smith dived into the philosophy behind the problem. “The issue is that many people believe their input is too small to make a difference. To me, the complete opposite is true. Like the flap of a butterfly’s wings, a small act can cause a hurricane of change. That’s why the logo of our foundation KLEAN is a butterfly with somewhat a hurricane inside.”



Minor effort, major effect

Picking up one piece of litter is a minor effort, but if everyone would do it – the effect would be major. Peter Smith even calculated that if 1 out of 4 people in the Netherlands pick up just one piece of litter a day, the litter problem seized to exist. That’s why Peter Smith asked people to pick up just one plastic bottle and send it to his workshop. With this, he received 100.000 littered bottles – a total of 2500 kilos of plastic. Smith will transform this amount of litter into an art piece:

“Again, it will be a Trojan Horse but this time a secret army will be hidden inside. The army consists of children who we will inform before hand on the story behind the statue. We provide them with enough ammunition in the form of arguments why it is important to pick up just one piece of litter every day. The most important argument will be: You do it out of love for your children.The idea is that the artwork will travel though the Netherlands, making a stop in every big city.”


The goal

The artwork will have the shape of a mother breastfeeding her baby to make people aware of the fact that plastic waste ends up in our food chain. The goal of the artwork is to change a mindset that not only causes the plastic waste problem but also affects the entire quality of life on our planet:

“It’s difficult to recapture the CO2 emissions of your neighbouror to ensure that your neighbour will eat lessmeat. But it’s very easy to clean up one piece of litter that someone else has dropped. If only 25%of the Dutchwould do so, we would save about 250 million Euro – the amount we currently spend on civil servants cleaning up litter. However, the most important thing for me is that people realise that their small actions do have an impact. That’s what I call the Power of One.”

The biggest 3D printed statue in the world

Peter Smith’s art piece won’t be just an art piece, it will be the biggest 3D printed statue in the world. Guess who’s 3D printing this piece? Yep, we are! About a year ago, we started to print the first pieces. The Plastic Madonna is going to be 12 meters long, so we are printing it in separate parts. We started with the feet, pictured above. Once all the pieces are connected, the Plastic Madonna will travel though the Netherlands, stopping in the biggest cities. In every city, Smith will organise lectures and events. Want to be a part of this project? Check the website.

3D printing a better future together

We love to join forces with likeminded companies. This time we teamed up with sustainable product design studio, Better Future Factory. Alike us, they specialised in recycling waste and turning it into new products. Together, we created a series of objects for AVR – a company that converts residual waste.

The Better Future Factory is well known for their product New Marble – tiles with a marble look made from recycled plastic bottles. In the very same year, they launched the packaging design for sustainable perfume RUIK. Among their product range are also chopsticks created from plastic collected from the ocean and many more innovative projects. To learn more about their work, check the website.

This project kicked off at the head quarters of the Better Future Factory, where the designs where made. Afterwards, we brought the designs to life using our 3D printer. The several objects we created will have a place in a showroom at AVR, surrounded by objects created by other circular designers. AVR is specialised in converting residual waste into energy and raw materials for households and businesses.



Drawing inspiration from it’s resource material, one of the objects is a table which contains the shape of many plastic bottles and the tabletop is made from recycled glass. Among the objects where also a laptop stand, a lectern, and several stools. The stools carry a special story, as the top is created by design studio PLANQ. As part of their project Rezign, they turned old pairs jeans into a new material. Both comfy and circular – what else could we wish for?

To sum it all up: a successful collaboration of which we hope many more will follow. Keep an eye on these fellow young pioneers!

You think your plastic waste is useless? Not according to our experts!

The first Expert meet-up was a great success. The event was part of the Social Tech Tour organized by research institute De Waag; a series of site visits to innovative, tech-enabled social enterprises. It was the first meet-up in the series of events on our research project “van Plestik, your own plastic“.

From all over the city, experts in the field of circular design came together to exchange ideas. Among the experts were Fabeel Butt (HEMA), Bob Vos (Polimeer) and Charissa Koolen (Institute for Sustainable Packaging). The first edition was all about the following question:

How do we maximize the impact of small sustainable initiatives such as vanPlestik?

The value of plastic

After all experts had arrived, Socrates Schouten, head of Commons Lab of the Waag, opened the evening with a short introduction about the Social Tech Tour. After Socrates had introduced himself, it was time for the rest of the group to briefly tell something about themselves. Not only did all experts have to share their name and job title, but also had to tell the group about the only plastic item they would never want to get rid of. For example, Nout would never throw away a small plastic dinosaur that he got from his girlfriend during one of their first dates. This proved that plastic can certainly be of great value for people and is more than just a disposable material.



From a bad idea to a brilliant solution

After this introduction, Nout told the group of experts all about the origin of vanPlestik and the ‘vanPlestik, your own plastic‘ project. Then Sam took over with a tour through the workshop. After the tour it was time to get started with a brainstorm. The experts were divided into three groups: longterm partnerships, (circular) business modelling or communication / awareness.

Each group formulated a problem statement from a different angle via the reversed brainstorming technique. Instead of coming up with solutions for a problem, this technique is ought to create ideas to make the problem worse. This results in absurd plans that stimulate the creativity of the participants. By the means of short sketches of ten seconds each group came to their ‘worst idea’. Afterwards this idea was inverted into a good idea, that was pitched to the entire group of experts.


So, what brilliant solutions did the experts come up with?

Let’s return to the main question of the evening; ‘How do we maximize the impact of small sustainable initiatives such as vanPlestik?’ With the imput of the experts, we have gotten a little closer to answering this question. For instance, during the brainstorming session, the communication / awareness group came to the conclusion that “placing someone on the corner of the street that shouts to people that plastic is of great value” is a bad idea. A no brainer, because it’s impossible to reach a big and targeted audience this way. The idea was therefore converted into a more realistic plan. The experts in this group recommend vanPlestik to collaborate with partners with a large following. “Create interactive campaigns” was their advice. Perhaps aimed at children, because those are the ones who will determine the future.

In addition, the group ‘longterm partnerships’ came up with the idea for a consumer loyalty program to create more interaction with the customer. Consumers or businesses could contribute their waste to vanPlestik and in return get recycled products made from their waste. Conclusion: enough food for thought for us!

Want to be a part of the next Expert meet-up?

Working together with the experts has been really inspiring and gave us a lot of new insights. We are already looking forward to the next Expert meet-up, which will take place in June. Do you consider yourself an expert in the field of circular design or do you want to become one? Keep an eye on our social media channels for more details!

‘vanPlestik, your own plastic’  is  a project made possible by: Stichting Afvalfonds, Stichting DOEN, KIDV, RWS, Polymer Science Park and Gemeente Amsterdam. 

Start Project: vanPlestik, your own plastic

vanPlestik has started a research project which we will continue to work on for one and a half year. During this project, we will develop a new model for converting plastic waste streams into valuable, circular products. We will do so in collaboration with the business sector.

We strive for a sustainable system in which the waste stream can be converted into products that contribute to a circular society via vanPlestik. As test cases, we research in collaboration with partner companies such as HEMA and Conscious Hotels, to find out which waste flows of plastic can be converted into new valuable products. Printing with various types of plastics is a complex technical challenge in which we are looking for new combinations between the printing technique and the properties of the plastic. The new products we produce from the residual flows of plastic can be used in the offices or stores of the companies we collaborate with.

Our challenges:
  • Develop a Circular model in which the waste stream can be converted into products that contribute to a circular society.
  • Creating new cooperation models with companies, building up logistics and a infrastructure for this.
  • Create showcases on how a company can contribute to the circular economy by converting their own waste into new useful products.
  • Develop new printing techniques that allow types of plastics which are common in the plastic waste (PET / PE / PP).
  • Inspire companies and consumers to participate in the circular economy.
Want to be a part of this?

In order to share our research and continue to learn from other companies, we organize three expert meet ups and three presentations. During every edition we discuss a specific problem / topic with experts from the field. The expert meet ups are organized in collaboration with our partners. Feel free to think along and share your knowledge.

This project is made possible by: Stichting Afvalfonds, Stichting DOEN, KIDV, RWS, Polymer Science Park and Gemeente Amsterdam.