Sustainability Circular Design and the Repurpose of Plastics / 2020 Consumer Trends

Sustainability and Circular Design – 2020 Consumer Trends

The mass production of plastic started in the 1940s and 1950s (around World War II) and has steadily grown ever since. The popularity of plastic is due not only to its low production costs but also to its low weight, acid resistance, and flexibility.

Why Plastic is a Problem?  

Today, more than 300 million tons of plastic are produced annually and nearly 8 million tons of it end up dumped into our oceans every year.

As standard plastic is not biodegradable, it can take hundreds or even thousands of years for plastic to break down. Today mountains of plastic are piling up in the natural world, they don’t decompose and they release an incredible amount of toxins into the air if they’re burned.

As consumption increases, there is an urgent need for developing solutions to this problem.


Use of Plastics in Interior Design and Fashion

Although the main sources of plastic waste are every day, and low-life objects, like soda cans and packaging materials, plastic is used worldwide in many consumer areas like medicine or transportation.

Interior Design and Fashion are also catching up with this material that is been seen with more prominence on the last seasons as a trend material.

Sustainability, Circular Design and the Repurpose of Plastics
Pink Zig Zag Chairs by CAMPANA BROTHERS


Sustainability, Circular Design and the Repurpose of Plastics
Plump Table by IAN COCHRAN


Sustainability, Circular Design and the Repurpose of Plastics
Monet Side Table by BOCA DO LOBO


Sustainability, Circular Design and the Repurpose of Plastics
Leelo Side Table by ANOTHER HUMAN


Celine Bag
Sustainability, Circular Design and the Repurpose of Plastics
Balmain 2019 Collection

RELATED: The Biggest Trends from Milan Design Week 2019



How can we solve the Plastic Problem? 

Biodegradable plastics are one of the alternatives. Made from plant-based raw materials these plastics allow for a natural decomposition process, since they’re all based on natural plant and vegetable extracts.

Barber & Osgerby and Emeco go green with a recycled, and infinitely recyclable, plastic chair. The ‘On and On’ is both a lightweight and stacking chair made from a higher percentage of recycled bottles.

Emeco has spent the last 20 years working with recycled materials and invested 4 years into developing a material with Coca-Cola, made out of fibreglass mixed with the brand’s discarded PET bottles. A chair was launched in 2010 as a result of the collaboration, but the team have continued to work on the material, refining its consistency and making it stronger and greener.

‘It’s been a super challenging material to work with,’ says Buchbinder. ‘However, we learnt a lot from our mistakes and, over the course of almost a decade, managed to engineer it so that it can be continually recycled – we can now make new chairs from old chairs.’


Sustainability, Circular Design and the Repurpose of Plastics
Barber & Osgerby ‘On and On’ recycled chair
Barber & Osgerby ‘On and On’ recycled chair

During Salone Internazionale del Mobile last April, Rossana Orlandi has presented the first edition of the RO Plastic Prize – an award that inspires the design community to think differently about how our things are made, and challenges the designers to create products or textiles using recycled plastic, which can also be recycled again.

The Ro Plastic Prize forms part of Rossana Orlandi’s Guiltless Plastic initiative, which was launched last year.

Sustainability, Circular Design and the Repurpose of Plastics
Rossana Orlandi – Guiltless Plastics

As part of her ‘Guiltless Plastic’ initiative, Orlandi showcased up-and-coming names such as German designer Alexander Schul, who repurposes polystyrene to make furniture, and Spaniard Alvaro Catalán de Ocón, whose lighting is made from plastic bottles.

Even Kartell, a furniture brand that uses plastic as a living, understand the need for change. The brand has released a sustainable version of it’s classic 1967 ‘Componibili’ storage unit made from bioplastic. This new material is derived from plant sources such as sugar beet and waste cooking oil.

Sustainability, Circular Design and the Repurpose of Plastics
Kartell’s Compinibili Sustainable Version

It may seem like large amounts of plastic waste are inevitable in the world we live in, but we can help with the plastic pollution issue by being aware of its dangers and taking steps to reduce waste, with sustainability, circular design concepts.



An increasing awareness of environmental catastrophe and the urgency to prevent it, is inspiring designers to rethink the lifecycle of products. The concept of Sustainability and Circular Design is currently undergoing a reflection in our society as more eco-conscious consumers are awakened to the necessity of creating ethical solutions for objects of daily use and cut excess.
Brands are playing a decisive role in this change by using their resources and influence to find innovative ways to create products that are as desirable and functional as they are eco-friendly. Rather than simply recycling materials, companies are looking at how they can be more ‘Circular’.
Circular design deals with the reuse and repurposing of a material to bring it new life and new meaning. A successful circular design cycle works to leave no waste throughout the process of creation and use.

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