Circular design on Kickstarter: 5 projects coming out of trash

in Sustainable Design

Sustainability is the future of design and new sustainable products and materials are literally coming up every single day.
Following this positive wave, one of the most popular crowdfunding platforms is encouraging sustainable design as well!

In fact, Kickstarter has recently launched the Shapeshift (opened in a new window/tab) program, a call for designers to embrace the principles of circular design and create new products out of trash.
The program has been open for submissions for the entire month of October and now it counts more than 20 sustainable projects ranging from interior design, fashion and even food!
I’ve collected my favourites in this post, so let’s jump right into them!

Shapeshift banner saying "Reduce waste. Expand your potential. Projects that transform "trash" into original product design."<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Kickstarter (opened in a new window/tab)

From plastic waste to circular design

Plastic bottles are literally invading our environment, but there are ways to reuse them. In particular, one of the most dazzling transformations of PET is into felt or a similarly soft fabric.
Which is exactly what the following two projects have used…

Upcycled plastic…as décor

Project: Bobby (opened in a new window/tab)
Designers: Lulu Lin (opened in a new window/tab)

Shot of Bobby felt planter with a plant inside.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Lulu Lin (via Kickstarter) (opened in a new window/tab)

Made of PET-based felt, the Bobby planter is air & water permeable. This creates a healthy environment for plants to thrive, it prevents rotten roots and makes bottom watering particularly easy.

In fact, Bobby can actually serve many more purposes at home, from planter to catchall wherever needed!
It takes approximately 2 bottles to make one Bobby and – since it is shipped flat – it also comes with shipment cost & space savings!

Shot showing a pile of disassembled Bobby felt planters which shows they lay flat.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Lulu Lin (via Kickstarter) (opened in a new window/tab)

Upcycled plastic…on the floor

Project: Freedom Squares™ (opened in a new window/tab)
Designers: The Canary Life (opened in a new window/tab)

A modular rug made our of Freedom Squares laying in front of a sofa.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: The Canary Life (via Kickstarter) (opened in a new window/tab)

PET bottles can also become an incredibly soft-touch textile, which sounds like a great starting point for a rug!
Freedom Squares™ are rug tiles that are available in 4 natural colours and are both practical for everyday life and mindful of the environment.

Close up view of the modular rug tiles.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: The Canary Life (via Kickstarter) (opened in a new window/tab)

Starting with the practical side, they’re modular, which allows scaling up or down to adapt to different living spaces. A brilliant solution to nail just the right rug size without having to buy a new rug at every move!
Also, one of the advantages of PET-based rugs is that they’re often machine washable. And modularity comes in handy in this sense too, as any stain can be sorted out just throwing the one dirty tile in the laundry!

View of a modular rug where one tile has been removed for washing.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: The Canary Life (via Kickstarter) (opened in a new window/tab)

On the environmental side, these rugs adhere fully to a circular economy model. Used rugs can be returned to the company, who will reuse the material over and over again to make new rugs!

Last but certainly not least, The Canary Life's rugs are also tested for toxicity to make sure they don’t contribute to indoor air pollution.

Living room decorated with earthy tones, plenty of plants and a beige modular rug on the floor.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: The Canary Life (via Kickstarter) (opened in a new window/tab)

Circular design beyond plastic

So fare we've looked at plastic upcycling projects. But plastic is only one of the many waste materials that can be given a new life through creative upcycling. So let's see a few more examples!

Bringing waste-based design into the kitchen

Project: Granbyware (opened in a new window/tab)
Designers: Granby Workshop (opened in a new window/tab)

Flatlay shot of several Granbyware plates on an orange background.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Granby Workshop (via Kickstarter) (opened in a new window/tab)

Big things can happen when chemistry meets hand-crafting skills. For example, Granby Workshop has been able to transform a bunch of waste (glass, tiles etc.) into 100% recycled tableware that reproduces the properties of porcelain and is both dishwasher and microwave safe!

View of all the materials that make Granbyware: industrial clay waste, crushed glass, marble dust, refectory bricks, broken slates, crushed tile.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Granby Workshop (via Kickstarter) (opened in a new window/tab)

The aesthetics of these dishes is also absolutely beautiful. The juxtaposition of a brown mat bottom and shiny colourful tops makes for a modern and informal look. And all the tiny fragments that make the top add depth and interest, while reminding that all that material used to be waste!

Close-up shot of the flecked colour of the plates.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Granby Workshop (via Kickstarter) (opened in a new window/tab)

Biomaterials come home

Project: Lovely Trash (opened in a new window/tab)
Designers: Blast Studio (opened in a new window/tab)

Vases with several shapes all made of mycelium.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Blast Studio (via Kickstarter) (opened in a new window/tab)

We’ve already discussed the potential of biomaterials in the design industry, seeing that they are really innovative and environment-friendly material alternatives.

For this project, Blast Studio is using mycelium (the technical name for mushrooms' roots) to upcycle coffee cups into vases and other design objects.

Trashed coffee cups next to a mycelium based vase.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Blast Studio (via Kickstarter) (opened in a new window/tab)

The material of single-use coffee cups is cardboard that is made water-resistant with a thin plastic layer inside. And – just like it happens to any other composite material – this makes coffee cups hard to recycle.
Blast Studio's process starts with collecting trashed coffee cups from local shops. The cups are then shredded and sterilized and finally mixed with mycelium, which will grow in moulds creating fascinating organic shapes.

The Lovely mini vase, made upcycling 4.5 coffee cups.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
The Lovely pot, made upcycling 21 coffee cups.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
The Lovely vase, made upcycling 42 coffee cups.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
The Lovely stool, made upcycling 408 coffee cups.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credits: Blast Studio (via Kickstarter) (opened in a new window/tab)

Growing plants sustainably

Project: Upcycled Plant Food and Sustainable Grow Kits (opened in a new window/tab)
Designers: Steady State (opened in a new window/tab)

Herb plants growing in a mini greenhouse on a kitchen counter.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Steady State (via Kickstarter) (opened in a new window/tab)

Growing plants is always a great idea as it benefits both our wellbeing and the environment around us.
With this is mind, Steady State has created a line of innovative fertilizer blends that have a special feature, they are upcycled! In essence, they’re based on a technology that recovers nutrients (phosphorus in particular) from wastewater streams and gives them a new use. The resulting fertilizer promises to slowly release nutrients into plants' soil, making the gardener's work way easier. Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it?

Fertilizer blends displayed in small glass jars.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Steady State (via Kickstarter) (opened in a new window/tab)

As a complement, Steady State has also put together ready-to-use gardening kits that contain all the necessary equipment to start growing plants sustainably and in the smallest possible space. They include biodegradable pots, bamboo plant markers and scoops, and even a mini greenhouse with built-in light!

View of all the equipment composing the gardening kits, including bamboo tools, soil, and biodegradable pots.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Close-up view of the mini greenhouse, with small plants growing in it.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credits: Steady State (via Kickstarter) (opened in a new window/tab)

In this post, I've focused only on interior-design-related projects. But – if you're interested – go take a look at the other Shapeshift (opened in a new window/tab) projects on Kickstarter! There are some truly genius ideas that apply circular design to other industries, like snack bars made of upcycled grains from the beer industry! (opened in a new window/tab)

And for more sustainable interior design ideas, come take a look around on SforSustainable (opened in a new window/tab), where I personally curate a selection of sustainable home design products including furniture, lighting, accessories, finishes, tableware and textiles!
And stay tuned because there’s a surprise coming for Christmas!

Infographic showing a few of the sustainable interior design products featured on SforSustainable: a banana fibre basket, a recycled wool blanket, and an ocean plastic chair<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span> (opened in a new window/tab)
Credit: DforDesign
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