REGGS throwback of Design District Rotterdam 2019

Last week REGGS attended Rotterdam’s Design District to take a closer look at how exhibitors communicate their sustainability efforts. We discuss a number of interesting examples; from design activism, new and promising production techniques to re-designs.
Let’s face it, we are all searching!

The issue-driven entrepreneur!
Most companies build their business on a need from the market. Or a technology that unlocks new possibilities. The Plastic Whale is a business that grew from a real issue of trying to keep our waterways clean.

The founder of the company, Marius Smit, first set up plastic fishing events in Amsterdam.
After successfully fishing tonnes of PET from the canals in the city he was left wondering what to do with all the collected rubbish. The next step was to recycle PET into an actual plastic fishing boat!
Now with a fleet of 11 boats the Plastic Whale make regular outings to help keep Amsterdam’s waters clean. They’ve expanded their proposition to offer plastic fishing as a team building exercise for companies and school children. People are paying to collect rubbish and enjoying it too!
The company has its sights set on creating furniture from the recycled waste, together with Vepa (a Dutch furniture producer) they’ve produced a series of tables, chairs and lamps suitable for the office and home. All based on the concept of a whale suffering from the plastic soup.

Plastic Whale is a great example of issue-driven entrepreneurship, from canal-cleaner, to boat and team builder, to educator and furniture maker. Ultimately the end goal of Plastic Whale is to go out of business by not having any more waste to collect, fingers crossed for the future!

Frame what you claim
Cooloo is a company that can coat almost anything! They make furniture (or any object really) resistant to weather and sun whilst retaining its soft and comfortable qualities. It makes you wonder why more furniture is not made in this way. It is soft AND durable.
The company takes a piece of foam, covers it with a layer of PU and finishes it off with a mixture of recycled leather or cork with organic glue. It is called ecological coating and Cooloo claims to be 97% circular.
According to the rules of sustainability coating and mixing materials without any plan for separation is a serious no go. Finding a way to recycle leather has been a design challenge for many years, but what does it mean when it is mixed with organic glue? Exactly what happens to the materials once the product has reached the end of its lifespan?  

Cooloo can separate the coating from the foam. The foam is recycled into foam. As separating the leather or cork from the glue is still a challenge, the coating can be recycled into pressed plate material for new products (similar as ANWB poles).

It is important to understand what happens after a product has served its purpose than whether the materials used are recycled or organic. Recycling a waste material into a new product is great, but it is what happens next that determines its real circular status.

We will keep an eye on this technique as it is a great way to form any shape of furniture, in our opinion Cooloo’s sustainability assessment deserves a closer look.

Going back to the brief
Traditionally terrace heaters have always been very inefficient as they mostly heat the air above a person’s head and then that energy is immediately lost. A re-designed shape might be a step towards the right direction. In design, sometimes you need to go all the way back and start from the (updated) brief.
Whilst the act of using terrace heaters as a whole definitely needs a rethink (couldn’t you just sit inside? Or put a coat on?) one company has come up with a novel way to keep people warm outside.
If today you really would like to heat a person sitting outside, we recommend Sit&Heat: They heat from below!