Adidas’ partnership with Parley for the Oceans has likely produced the most popular example of recycled ocean waste being used to make common, everyday items. In recent years, they’ve made shoes, jerseys for the National Hockey League and soccer clubs, and according to Forbes, the campaign will net the German sportswear brand $1 billion with the newest release of five million shoes. And it all comes from turning old fishing nets into grounded plastic pellets.
Now, a design and architecture firm is using the same process and the same types of ocean waste to make something that’s probably even easier to flip into a mass-consumed product: office and school chairs. In 2017, Snøhetta started a feasibility study and invested money into new production equipment for injection molding, looking to use re-granulated plastics to reduce its carbon footprint. Their work caught the attention of Nordic Comfort Products (NCP), and the two teamed up to redesign a model of school chairs that had originally been made in the 1960s, with over five million units being sold in Norway alone. Up until that point, the design required virgin plastic but now the firm actually sources its plastics from local salmon farms, where nets regularly get worn out and become useless for their original purpose. In fact, the local salmon farms were apparently paying to use a service that would get rid of the plastic waste for them while NCP had been importing their plastic from China. They managed to turn a common, inefficient production cycle into creating locally sourced and recycled products we actually don’t give much thought to, all that at a retail cost of $100 per chair.
“One of our goals was to do a project to inspire and show the industry that you can actually make businesses out of what they today consider as trash,” says Snøhetta architect, Stian Ekkernes Rossi. “Through design and architecture, plastic becomes a resource. When you use plastic for certain things that are meant to last, it’s a wonderful material. When you misuse it in products with a short life-span, it’s a misunderstanding of the material’s capability.”