Disposability is currently (and unfortunately) the foundation of our culture. From planned obsolescence, to unnecessary packaging and single-use coffee pods, disposability has been designed into so many everyday things. That's why it's imperative that designers and other creative souls get out of this 'wasteful' way of thinking, and to see 'waste' not as waste, but as a potential material.
When she found out that tons of sea grass were ending up in landfills each year, German designer Carolin Pertsch decided to find new ways to use this natural material.
According to Dezeen, beaches on the German coast are cleaned up regularly of seagrass to prepare them for tourist season. Thousands of tons of these plants end up as "special waste" in landfills. To divert this perfectly usable material from the landfill, Pertsch began to collect Zostera Marina seagrass (also known as eelgrass and seawrack) from the coast, and found a new way to use them: as minimalist but sturdy stools.
To do this, Pertsch cleaned and sorted the grasses according to varying shades of colour, then shredded them before combining them with a bio-resin made from vegetable oil in moulds. The result is an eco-friendly bio-plastic that can be used as the stool's one-centimetre thick seat. She describes how the experiments went: "Everything started in the kitchen in our co-working space. Instead of cooking lunch, I put together natural ingredients, like starch, water and vinegar, for producing my own bioplastic, which I could use as a kind of glue."
The idea was to create an everyday, innocuous stool, coming in three colours, that would enlighten people about the possibility of using "waste" material. Pertsch explains:
Regarding our resource-wasting society, there has to be a fundamental rethinking. [..] Beside creating a new eco-material, another aim of these experimentations was to open people's eyes to think in new alternative ways for future materials. There is no better way to confront people with a new material than in furniture. Furniture always needs an interaction between human and object. With its minimalism it focuses on the new eco-material.
Intriguingly, Pertsch says that the texture of the finished product feels very much like cork, another renewable material that's well-loved by designers. The stools are simple, but they do highlight how materials might not be 'waste', but can be transformed into something useful and surprisingly attractive. This is one example of how a shift in perspective, one that interrupts our entrenched wasteful and 'waste'-generating approach to life, could change everything. More over at Dezeen and Carolin Pertsch.