Sustainable design: repurposing e-waste for interiors

in Sustainable Design

Our modern society relies on technology for practically everything. Far from being a bad thing, this comes with a problem at the end-of-life phase.

Just like in other industries, electronic devices are currently designed according to a linear model: buy, use, and dispose. What happens after is predictable: huge piles of tech objects accumulating in landfills.
In one word: e-waste.

An important part of the solution lies in throwing away less going forward – aka making our technology more long-lasting and easier to repair. But the amount of e-waste we already have calls for other creative solutions too.

And since all industries can contribute to fighting waste, below are some interiors pieces made repurposing e-waste!

ovens to tiles

Among the many components of electronic devices is glass. A material that’s made using a natural resource – sand – but that was never quite considered finite in its availability. If household glass is separately collected for recycling, the same is not true for glass coming from tech devices, that just sits as useless trash in landfills.

Common Sands – Forite (opened in a new window/tab) was born with the aim of giving glass from ovens and microwaves a second life. The result is a collection of glass tiles with a deep and varied pattern that could fit a number of design applications.
Looking at these tiles the question comes instinctively: how did we not do this before?

Marble-like sustainable tiles made with e-waste glass.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Snøhetta (opened in a new window/tab), Studio Plastique (opened in a new window/tab)
Shot showing the two tile sizes available.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Snøhetta (opened in a new window/tab), Studio Plastique (opened in a new window/tab)
Close-up shot of the tiles' texture.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Snøhetta (opened in a new window/tab), Studio Plastique (opened in a new window/tab)

computers to chairs

The vast majority of electronic devices also have plastic components: external shells, keyboards, remotes, and more…
This material can be recycled in – for example – versatile plastic panels.

EVOLVE (opened in a new window/tab) is a chair made using plastic sheets from discarded laptops and computer keyboards. Its dark colour comes from the recycled pieces only, with no extra pigment. The texture is interestingly rich, not as smooth as one would expect from plastic. And since panels include only one type of plastic, they can be recycled over and over again.

Black chair with minimal shape made of e-waste plastic.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Tom Robinson (opened in a new window/tab)
Shot showing the recycling proces: a keyboard, plastic pellets and a recycled plastic sheet.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Tom Robinson (opened in a new window/tab)
Close-up shot of the recycled plastic's texture.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Tom Robinson (opened in a new window/tab)

tapes to art

Who remembers cassettes and videotapes? The golden days of these audio-video playing devices are now far and gone, but the same is not true for the actual tapes that are all still sitting in trash dumps.

Once more, creative thinking comes to the rescue. MusicCloth (opened in a new window/tab) is a hand-woven cloth made with forgotten cassettes and videotapes. One of its many applications is art – city maps in particular, that are woven with curated tapes based on the mood of the city and come with a QR code to actually listen to the city's soundtrack. Genius isn’t it?

Room with a cassette tape art piece on the wall.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Rehyphen (opened in a new window/tab)
Close-up of the cassette tape artwork.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Rehyphen (opened in a new window/tab)
Overview of different woven patterns obtained with cassette tapes.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Rehyphen (opened in a new window/tab)

 
 
E-waste is a big and complex problem that requires equally varied solutions. One of them is certainly a mix of creativity and a circular design mindset, which can breathe new life into the most unexpected materials!

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