skip to main content

sustainable design: 7 projects giving trash a new life

in sustainable design

Can waste be transformed into something beautiful? This is the question that many designers are asking themselves lately, challenging the common belief that producing something will necessarily create some sort of residual, which will be just waste.

Seeing waste as a resource is also at the core of a circular economy model and can be incredibly powerful in changing our approach to materials.

Let’s discover a few examples of designs created out of trash…


Plastic is a highly debated material these days. At the same time, new projects are coming up to save plastic from the status of waste. Marbled coasters giving new life to plastic shopping bags, film packaging and bubble wrap made of LDPE (Low Density Polyethylene). Cabinet knobs made with plastic found in the ocean. Felt items made with plastic bottles…

Top view of a table with marbled sustainable coasters made of recycled plastic.
Credit: Weez & Merl
Cabinet knobs made of ocean plastic.
Credit: Spark & Burnish
Lampshade made out of plastic bottles.
Credit: Muuto

Speaking of plastic and sustainable design, the worldwide famous gallerist Rossana Orlandi has recently launched a very special competition – the Guiltless Plastic Prize. Designers of all ages and backgrounds are invited to submit their ideas to give plastic a new life. Or – as she would say – to make plastic guiltless.

Meet the winners of Guiltless Plastic 2019

building materials

Stones, tiles and all kinds of construction materials are discarded every day during demolitions. But creative designers are now turning debris into new products, making them beautiful as never before.

Plaster is turned into minimal lampshades, and what’s left after building demolitions makes the bricks of the future.

Minimal white table lamp.
Credit: More Circular
A wall of colourful and sustainable bricks.
Credit: StoneCycling

food waste

Upcycling food waste into sustainable design products is another mind-blowing innovation in the design industry.

Take coffee grounds for instance. Lebanese designer Paola Sakr collects coffee grounds from local coffee shops, mixes them with newspaper pulp and a natural binding agent, and makes biodegradable containers out of this new material.

Containers with a wooden cap and the body made of coffee grounds.
Credit: Paola Sakr

And what about the food waste we all produce at home? Japanese designer Kosuke Araki produces tableware out of it! The process is hard to believe. It all started with a preparation period, where he diligently collected all the food waste he produced at home for 2 years, ending up with 315 kilograms of stuff. Then he burnt vegetable waste into charcoal and boiled animal bones & skins to create a glue-like paste that he used to mould the charcoal. Finally, he added Urushi – a traditional Japanese lacquer – to give a shiny finish and additional strength.

Black tableware made of food waste.
Credit: Kosuke Araki

Upcycling waste into new products is only one way of creating sustainable designs. For more on this topic, you’re welcome to check out riivin, the sustainable interior design platform I curate.

Cover image by Vert Design Studio (via Instagram)

share this article
  • share on pinterest
  • share on twitter
  • share on facebook
  • share via whatsapp
  • share via email
related articles