Guiltless Plastic: Ro Plastic Prize 2021

Held as part of the 2021 Milan Design Week program, the third annual Ro Plastic Prize presented a curation of work by leading global change-makers across many design disciplines. Sharing an intent to create products and spaces distinguished by their use of recycled plastic, this year's finalists highlighted the brilliant capacity for design to reestablish the way we approach sustainability and the seamless ways it can be integrated into every facet of our everyday lives.

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Gomi Design

In 1955, Life magazine published a now infamous fluff piece titled “Throwaway Living.” Buried in the middle of the issue, the article was a celebration of the disposable, a joyous renouncing of the ingrained conservationist culture that had, until then, informed the mass production of everyday household items. It heralded the beginning of what would become a staggering global acceptance of single-use plastic into our everyday lives. One that would cast a shadow over the revolutionary polymer coated road starting at Bakelite, leading instead to a relationship of frivolity with nature and a conscientiously collective blind spot when it came to waste disposal.

Today, with over half a century of plastic waste accumulation in our wake, it is to initiatives like Guiltless Plastic that we turn to glean inspiration and education around how we might be able to redeem such a massive environmental misjudgment. Following on the heels of a primary intent to increase the life cycle of plastic products is the need to ignite aspiration and inspiration around its reuse. In 2019, Guiltless Plastic, in collaboration with eminent design mentor Rossana Orlandi, held the inaugural Ro Plastic Prize. Now in its third year, the prize champions the innovation of creatives around the world who are dedicated to transforming plastic waste into pioneering artistic treasure. Held as part of Milan Design Week, the 2021 Ro Plastic Prize addresses the myriad ways creativity acts as a driver for sustainability with finalists presenting work underpinned by its resurrection of recycled plastic.

Winner of the ‘Responsible Innovation’ award, Tom Meades, heads up English design studio Gomi Design which has been established to support the notion of a circular economy. Tom's Gomi Speaker has been recognised for its astounding capacity to find a new use for the globes most prevalent waste material - plastic bags. Exploring sustainability through the lens of the zeitgeist, the Gomi Speaker is an everyday essential powered by repurposed e-bike batteries. Completing the studio’s deeply comprehensive approach to product design is a commitment to ‘repairs-for-life’ ensuring the speakers never need to be thrown away unnecessarily.

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Gomi Design

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Gomi Design

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Gomi Design

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Gomi Design

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Alvaro Catalan de Ocon

Alvaro Catalan de Ocon has also been awarded for his indoor/outdoor rugs made from recycled PET. Titled ‘Plastic Rivers’ the project has won the ‘Urban and Public Furniture Design’ category in Milan with handcrafted rugs made stitch-by-stitch, pixel-by-pixel to recreate aerial Google Earth panoramas. The artisanal approach brings a resonant engagement with pieces that are intricately beautiful and powerful in their portrayal of design and innovation working in tandem to bring aesthetic gravitas to an otherwise unappealing material. The striking rugs combine sustainability, technique and artistry to impart a message of global care through a considered approach to design.

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Alvaro Catalan de Ocon

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Alvaro Catalan de Ocon

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ecoBirdy

A Ro Plastic Prize finalist was Belgian design company ecoBirdy which produces only upcycled
products. The studios range of homewares and children’s furniture is made from recycled kitchen plastic waste and their patented material ecothylene®. The marble effect of ecoBirdy’s Mabo Plates
and the speckled terrazzo-like appearance of furniture dispel any misconceptions that recycled
materials tend to be dull and lacklustre. The products are refined and joyful imbued with a high-
quality artistic expression while the silhouettes of the furniture are both clean and characterful.
Ecothylene® is 100% recycled and 100% recyclable, produced through technological innovation
which demonstrates the inherent possibilities that exist in resurrecting plastic waste.

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ecoBirdy

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ecoBirdy

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ecoBirdy

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ecoBirdy

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Supernovas Afterlife

Another finalist, Supanovas, is a studio comprised of change makers of a similar ilk to ecoBirdy. The Rotterdam-based practice produces recycled plastic furniture products with their aptly named Afterlife collection, designed in collaboration with design studio Odd Matter . Made with recycled LDPE and PET plastic, Afterlife was the first easy-to-assemble furniture collection designed by the studio and demonstrates a highly covetable, design-focused alignment between upcycled furniture and its seamless integration within any home environment. Created to help balance the scales when it comes to disposal of home and office furniture (of 25m tonnes disposed of in the US and Europe each year, less that 1% is recycled), Supernovas has embraced the concept of ‘streaming design.’ This means that their products are made from 100% recycled sources and don’t use glues so as to ensure their recyclability. The studio also works on a free swap or return policy ensuring the material will never become waste again.

Across all the Ro Plastic Prize finalists, a common thread evident throughout each of the recognised designers and studios is a two pronged approach to innovative design - the use of recycled materials and the capacity for them to be re-recycled. Systematically reprogramming the way we produce plastic products, the underlying philosophy guiding the design approach of all the change making finalists is a concerted effort to break the cycle of single-use in favour of a circular economy.

See our previous piece on Guiltless plastic here
View the Guiltless Plastic website here

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Supernovas Afterlife

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Supernovas Afterlife

Two Four Nine by Cera Stribley © 2021 – hello@twofournine.com.au