Designer, environmentalist and founder of Van de Sant
A few years ago, Robert Milder set-up an outdoor furniture brand, but was afraid to mention that he designed and manufactured the furniture from plastic waste. It was only when someone asked him about the production process and he began to tell them how it was built-up from plastic fragments that would never rot or be affected by termites. The thing was, recycling was a no go when selling furniture to a high-end market.
Designing with sustainability in mind is not the norm. We all know that the norm is to design things to make our life easier, and we fail to without acknowledge all of the problems that come with this.
In 2016, the appetite for sustainable products is increasing. Last year investments in renewable energy outperformed investments in fossil fuel energy by 150 billion USD and looking at the latest show models of Audi, Tesla and Mercedes, electric driving is the way forward.
Yet as sustainability gets more and more popular, the traditional furniture industry still uses more than two billion trees annually to make its products; trees cut legally and illegally. For the most part, supply chains today can be characterised as linear: materials are consumed then products are manufactured, distributed and sold, and used until they are disposed of at the product’s end-of-life stage. However, amidst debilitating environmental pressures – caused in part by the unsustainable use of raw materials – there is a growing trend towards a circular economy in which resources are kept in use for as long as possible and then reused at the end-of-life stage.
A desire to stop deforestation and the frustration with plastic pollution prompted Milder to start experimenting with furniture frames made from recycled plastic. After looking at strengths, sizes and colors, his designer team came up with a collection of designer furniture, which was greatly appreciated by the hospitality and events sectors, as well as by individuals.
When we look back in time, we hope that our innovative production processes will have shaken up the furniture industry. Trees will no longer be sacrificed for furniture frames. Instead shredded plastic bottles will be used in chair and bed frames and plastic soup will be allocated for upholstery fabric. We also envision that 3D printing will lead to Van de Sant production locations all over the world.