Zero Waste Lab by The New Raw, a collaboration between Rotterdam-based architects Panos Sakkas and Foteini Setaki, makes everything from park benches to work stations to dinner tables, encouraging people to think about the impact of single-use plastic consumption.
“Plastic has a design failure,” Sakkas and Setaki told Drupa. “It is designed to last forever, but often we use it once and then throw it away.”
The pair established The New Raw in 2015 in response to the global plastic crisis, hoping to raise the visibility of the issue and demonstrate that plastic trash can take on new life as aesthetically pleasing furniture, either for the home or for public consumption.
The project’s Pots Plus collection works in collaboration with European city officials to make use of recycled materials, while also adding beauty and functionality to public spaces.
A response to the urban lifestyle, the collection includes pieces such as planters, bookshelves, dog bowls, and even bike racks.
“What’s more, the geometries are based on ergonomic curvatures that accommodate a relaxed body posture,” states The New Raw’s website.
The New Raw’s Zero Waste Lab has an on-site recycling facility that transforms collected plastic trash into moldable plastic flakes. Robotic 3D printers then convert the plastic flakes into usable furniture.
Comfortable futuristic benches constructed from recycled plastic currently reside in the cities of Amsterdam and Mechelen, Belgium. The city of Thessaloniki, Greece, also took part in a demonstration in partnership with Coca Cola in 2019, called Print Your City, hosting a collection of 3D-printed chairs with integral planters and bicycle stands.
An interactive project, Print Your City invited the citizens of Thessaloniki to choose the colors and functions of the chairs, which in total used 1,763 pounds (approx. 800 kg) of waste plastic.
“With Print Your City, we endeavor to show a better way of using plastic in long-lasting and high-value applications,” said Sakkas and Setaki.
The first synthetic plastic was created by Leo Hendrik Baekeland in the United States in the early 1900s, and it soon became a booming industry. Global production skyrocketed from 1.5 million metric tons in 1950 to 359 billion metric tons in 2018, reports Statista.
A huge amount of plastic waste ends up in the oceans, posing a deadly threat to marine wildlife and fragile ecosystems. Because of single-use plastics, Ocean Conservancy predicts that within just a few years we could be looking at a pound (approx. 454 g) of plastic for every three pounds (approx. 1.4 kg) of fish in the world’s oceans.
Sakkas and Setaki explain on their website that The New Raw’s “bigger vision” is to “contribute to a closed material cycle for plastic, raise public awareness, and stimulate local production.”
On Jan. 20, The New Raw posted a project update on their social media.
“We cannot travel due to COVID restrictions, but thankfully our ideas can!” they posted, explaining that their Pots Plus collection is currently on display at the Moscow Design Museum as part of its exhibition, Plastic Fantastic.
“Some beautiful photos from the exhibition remind us of the period when we could still travel, visit, explore,” they said.