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turning household waste into sustainable designs for interiors

in sustainable design

When speaking about sustainable designs, a lot has to do with materials.

Less harmful materials are created. By-products are given a purpose. Waste is upcycled.

Looking at materials impartially is a skill to be learnt though, as our preconceptions over materials can hinder their potential! Today, we’re focusing on materials that are commonly thrown into household recycling bins. Even though this action marks the end of one of their lives, this doesn’t mean they can’t have more…


Letters, newspapers, leaflets…everyday life is full of paper. But when wet, paper trash takes on a paste-like consistency that can easily be moulded into décor pieces and furniture.

The end products retain an interesting crumpled look that adds plenty of texture.

Product selection from riivin:

Recycled paper candle holder with air plant next to it.
Credit: Chartam
Recycled paper white chair - side view.
Credit: Officine Tamborrino


Glass bottles and jars are a common packaging material for household goods. Glass is also a great material when it comes to recycling, as it can be reused over and over without any quality loss.

Trashed glass can be melted and re-shaped into attractive forms that are worth displaying. Alternatively, glass bottles can be cut and painted. This turns them into a décor piece while keeping them mainly as-is, in a somehow provocative act of upcycling.

Product selection from riivin:

Recycled glass tall vase with flower stem inside.
Credit: Urban Nature Culture - Photo by Studio Bino
Vases made cutting and painting glass bottles styled with flowers.
Credit: Changing Atmosphere (via Debou)
Recycled glass decanter with two half-full glasses.
Credit: Ngwenya Glass

cans + tins

Cans and tins are another common packaging material for food & beverages. And aluminium is another ideal candidate for recycling, being one of the few materials that don’t degrade in quality when reused.

In an Ugly Duckling-like transformation, uninteresting cans & tins have the potential to become design pieces – from chairs to coat hooks.

Product selection from riivin:

Recycled aluminium chairs around a table.
Credit: Emeco
Black recycled aluminium wall hook holding a white shirt.
Credit: Essem Design

plastic bottles

Despite being one of the most blamed materials, plastic can be reused in several different ways. Either in the form of solid surface or yarn, recycled plastic can be turned into all sorts of interior pieces.

Product selection from riivin:

Recycled plastic bar cart.
Credit: Loll Designs
Recycled plastic planters next to a soft armchair.
Credit: DesignByThem
Recycled plastic storage bins with papers inside.
Credit: Muuto

organic waste

Even what commonly ends up in the compost can have a second life as a design piece!

Peels and leaves can become dyes to give a natural tint to textiles. Alternatively, vegetable pulps of all sorts can be moulded in the shape of furniture tops and accessories, preserving their naturally vibrant colour.

Product selection from riivin:

Side tables with metal structure and bright orange top made of lentil pulp.
Credit: Ottan
Close-up of fabric dyed with organic waste.
Credit: Cloth

When speaking about sustainable designs, a lot has to do with materials… And if we let go of common preconceptions, accepting that all materials have the same potential, then we’ll be able to witness some incredible transformations – like household trash to sustainable design!

For more inspiration on this topic, head over to riivin: the sustainable interior design platform I curate.

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