There is a global conversation taking place across the globe. We all know that it’s time to be more conscious in the way we live. As society increasingly embraces the three ‘R’s – reduce, reuse and recycle – the interior design and furniture industry are responding. It means nurturing innovation around recycling and repurposing materials.

One of the highlights of Salone del Mobile in Milan this year was that the organisers called out the international design industry to step up their game with regards to sustainability, and to embrace ‘the Circular Economy.’

The Circular Economy

The concept is simple. Move away from take-make-dispose methods of production and consumption, and towards a closed loop, where materials are continuously repurposed. There are huge campaigns happening across all industries to make this creative challenge a reality.

The practical side of this for the design industry is experimenting with new solutions for recycled materials and working with sustainable natural resources. It also means producing high-quality products that remain in circulation for as long as possible, before they are eventually reincarnated as something else.

It’s going to be an ongoing challenge for many industries. However, there are many eco-innovators both at home and overseas who are leading the charge. They are also showing that designing in a conscious way does not mean compromising on style…

Alvaro Catalán de Ocon’s PET lampshades

Alvaro Catalán de Ocon’s PET lampshades at Salone del Mobile. Image: South China Morning Post

Shown in design icon Rossana Orlandi’s gallery in Milan as part of a feature on ‘guiltless plastics’, these stylish lampshades are made from recycled PET bottles. Alvaro Catalán de Ocon is known for his clever, conscientious product design. His contemporary, handcrafted pieces put the environment at the forefront while still making an incredible stylistic impact.

The design also fits perfectly with one of the trends which was forecast at the 2019 Decor + Design show in Melbourne by leading Trends Futurist Victoria Redshaw from Scarlet Opus.

Alvaro Catalán de Ocon’s PET Lampshade Chandelier. Available from Pamono. Image: Pamono

Redshaw spoke about ‘Fellowship’ in design and the power of the Collective. Designs like Catalán de Ocon’s celebrate a global outlook, incorporating cultural diversity and showcasing a mix of patterns and materials in a modern ‘Graphic Craft’ style.

SMaRT Microfactories Unique Recycled Resin

SMaRT Microfactories Recycled Resin Material at Decor + Design

Futurists Scarlet Opus also talked about the global need to move towards a Circular Economy, showcasing some incredible recycled materials at the 2019 Trend Hub. A highlight of their Trend Tours around the Decor + Design Exhibition was a stop at homegrown innovators, SMaRT@UNSW.

The Centre for Sustainable Materials Research (SMaRT) at the University of New South Wales works with industry, global research partners, not-for-profits and governments on innovative solutions for the enormous waste challenges we are facing.

SMaRT took a stand at Decor + Design both literally and figuratively, exhibiting some of the extraordinary materials that they have developed at the SMaRT Microfactories. They displayed tables made from a blend of resign and waste glass, single use coffee cups, used coffee grounds and other waste. No piece is the same, as the colours are determined by the waste materials being used. It’s a great example of how Australia are making a serious imprint in sustainable design.

A Circular Economy is In Everyone’s Best Interests

As consumers grow more and more concerned about the provenance and sustainability of the products they are purchasing, it’s common sense for companies to investigate their internal practices and address the materials and processes they are using.

Dutch designer Richard Hutten spoke recently about the repercussions for businesses who don’t embrace the circular economy:

“If you don’t have a circular business, you won’t have a business”, said Hutton recently at the Warsaw Home design show in Poland.

“If companies don’t put sustainability on the agenda, they will disappear. Consumers will refuse their products, and governments will make regulations to make sure they make sustainable products.”

The designer is known for his stand on sustainability and is currently re-designing the seating at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport.

Richard Hutten’s Designs for the Chairs at Schiphol. Image: Dezeen

All the seating at the busy airport will be replaced with seating designed with ‘circular’ principles in mind; they will be recycled from old chairs and upholstered in sustainable materials.

They are also designed to be easy to repair and will be manufactured close to Schiphol airport to minimise transportation costs and the overall impact on the environment.

While there’s much work to do, style is beginning to meet substance in sustainable design like never before.

We’ll be bringing the Decor + Design community regular updates on eco-conscious design in the lead up to the edition of Australia’s No.1 Interiors Event, 16 – 19 July at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre.

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