Architect duo turns plastic waste into sturdy furniture

City-based start-up is using simple technologies to transform discarded plastics into contemporary lounge chairs and tables, thereby offering an aesthetic solution to the mounting trash around us.
Architect duo turns plastic waste into sturdy furniture

Chennai

Architects Pradyumna Rao and Mridhula Chandramohan, after graduating in 2016, set foot in the field of architecture wanting to create something new. “We started off by looking at the materials that were commonly used in architecture — like wood, plastics — and started questioning their impact. We looked closely at what was left behind after a piece of furniture was built. That was when we decided to start working with the materials that were discarded as waste. Our idea was to educate people through our products,” says Pradyumna. 

Their Chennai-based start-up Samsara — The Recycle Company took form as a result a few months ago. “While researching for solutions on how to use the discarded plastics, we learned about a Netherlands-based group called Precious Plastic, that creates machines to recycle plastics using low technology. Using their open source (freely accessible by all) technologies, we started to make our own simple machines that can recycle plastic,”he adds.

After experimenting with their recycling machines for close to a year, the start-up’s furniture prototypes using discarded plastics were displayed at the Dutch Design Week in 2019, one of the largest design forums in Europe. Among the designs displayed were their lounge chair and tables. A lounge chair, for instance, uses 8kg of recycled plastic in its structure and takes a day to create. High density polyethylene, commonly used for pipes, and even detergent bottles are used in the making of this furniture. The process begins with sourcing raw material (waste plastics) in the form of pellets or shredded plastic, which their machines melt to create plastic filaments or lumber. The output is then turned into required form.

“Currently, what we have in the world is a linear economy — wherein people buy goods, use them and throw them away. What we are aiming at is a circular economy, where goods can be recycled and reused. As designers, what we have been able to do is bring value to the thrown away materials through design and aesthetics. We are attempting an artisanal way of recycling,” he stresses.

Besides furniture, the start-up also creates keychains, mousepads, coasters, etc., using plastics. The architect admits that the furniture could be slightly more expensive than the other kinds available. “If we scale our production, we will be able to bring the price down. Our end game is to reuse other materials like textile, rubber and wood — working with the waste that already exists,” remarks Pradyumna.

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