Can you believe that these recycled tableware pieces are made from plastic ocean waste? As part of a project to tackle the plastic waste washing up on Australian shores, Supercyclers Sarah K and Andrew Simpson have sought to re-appropriate marine debris as a design resource. Inspired to create something that is equally beautiful and sustainable, the result is a brand-new material made from 100% plastic waste: Marine Debris Bakelite.
The innovative material references traditional Bakelite and is therefore both lightweight and durable. All in all, this makes the new plastic a practical element to incorporate into your home. What is more striking for aesthetes like us, however, is its stunning marbled quality. Who knew marine debris could look so fashion-forward and chic?
The first product to use Marine Debris Bakelite was this Marine Debris Bento Box, launched at Tokyo Design Week 2015 to resounding success. We can’t get enough of these boxes’ elegant geometric shapes. Plus, we love the dreamy color palette of pale blush pink and deep glossy black.
Going forward, Sarah and Andrew enlisted help from some of the best international designers to create an expanded collection. To find out more, NONAGON.style reached out for an exclusive chat with Sarah, one half of the brains behind this exciting project.
Can you tell us what Supercyclers is all about?
Supercyclers is really about making sustainability a central part of design problem solving while not losing sight of good design. It’s certainly always been a collaborative thing. I work with other designers on specific projects. And I also profile and organize exhibitions of designers who I believe are doing the same.
What inspired you and Andrew to start the Marine Debris Bakelite project?
Andrew had met an organization collecting ocean plastic from the beaches of New South Wales at a time when they were finding the cost of taking the plastic to the tip prohibitive, so it was being taken inland and burnt. Naturally this seemed completely ridiculous, so Andrew offered to buy anything they collected. At that point, we put our heads together to come up with something to make from the raw material.
Our Supercyclers brief was to make something so desirable – beautiful and useful – that people wouldn’t think twice about it having once been a pollutant in our ocean. Inspired by our mutual love of early plastics like Bakelite, Andrew and I created Marine Debris Bakelite, composed of 100% plastic washed out of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch onto Australian beaches.
What are your future plans for the project?
I think that the material is most suited to object design. I would always prefer to see marble or natural stone used in an interior setting as a surface. One very big Supercyclers ethic for me is not to create problems from a solution and to focus instead on what is the most suitable application for a product or material.
What has been your favorite Supercyclers project so far?
Still one of my favorite works is the No Heater Winter Chair. The chair has a set of ‘chair accessories’ that enable the user to be warm without turning the heater on. There’s a cape around the chair unfolds 2 meters in either direction and wraps around the user. The chair also comes with a wool helmet, mittens and booties. [I think this project] demonstrates sustainable thinking in design as opposed to material use. But this is an equally important tenet of Supercyclers’ focus on sustainability.
What has been the public reaction to your work?
Generally it’s been the public interest in the work that has kept Supercyclers going. I still think environmental issues are some of the more important and pressing challenges we are faced with today. If we don’t keep it in the conversation it tends to disappear. The tendency is to assume that the problem has been solved. However, the problem has not been solved and there is still so much potential for interesting, engaging and exciting solutions.
When Supercyclers stops being relevant and people lose interest in good design addressing issues of sustainability, then the job will be done.
To see the Marine Debris Bakelite collection in full head to the newly launched Supercylers e-store. In addition to saving the world’s oceans, this is an excellent opportunity to own affordable design pieces by the latest up and coming designers – a win-win situation for all.
For tips on how to make your home more sustainable see our guide to ‘Eco Friendly Material Swaps‘. Eco warriors should also check out these beautiful sustainable homes in San Diego and Italy for home design inspiration.