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Dec 14, 2020

We made some colourful (100% recycled) benches for our neighbours

While developing Precious Plastic Version 4 we made these nice benches for our lovely neighbours.

two man fitting benches in a park
Precious Plastic benches installed.
This article is part of Precious Plastic, a One Army project tackling the plastic waste problem. You can learn more
here
.

Imagine your shampoo bottle transformed into a bench you can sit at the park while reading a book, enjoying the sun or making out with your partner 😉

That’s exactly what we’ve done back in 2019 in collaboration with social design studio Tante Netty where we’ve set up a collection system in Woensel West neighbourhood and crafted some exquisite benches from waste to be placed in local parks.

Background story

Remember Version 4 when we invited over 100 people to help push the limits of plastic recycling? Well, these people had to sleep somewhere. After a long and, to some degree, creative research we eventually got 10 houses in Woensel West, Eindhoven. Ever thankful to Trudo for that.The neighbourhood was in a renovation phase and the houses were planned to be demolished soon. Hence they were cheap, super cheap. €15.000 to be precise. For 10+ houses for 16 months. Perfect for us. But somewhere along the lines of the deal we also agreed to give something back to the neighbourhood.

Working with Tante Netty, we created Woensel Waste. A project researching plastic collection methods and product design for public spaces. The idea was simple, collect plastic waste from residents and create public furniture for locals to use and enjoy (and maybe reflect on the hidden potentials and value of plastic).

Collection System

We kicked off the project piloting a collection system involving the families in Woensel West. Did an opening event, gave custom-made bins, explained how to clean and prepare the plastic, placed larger bins in the streets, got local businesses involved and did a fair bit of publicity on local newspapers, radios and social media. Big up Tante Netty product and designer Ludo Schlechtriem’ for the amazing work on this. Eventually, we had about 30 families signing up, a couple of hundred people bringing plastic and a total of 400kg of plastic collected in 2 months.

man handing out the recycling bins.
Sam handing out the recycling bins. Photo: Gaia van Egmond.
happy person holding a recycled bin
A happy neighbour with her bin. Photo: Gaia van Egmond.
Neighbours with their bin. Photo: Gaia van Egmond.

It was very interesting to learn how plastic types are distributed in urban consumer waste streams. Most of the plastic we collected was HDPE (shampoo bottles, cleaning bottles etc..) with about 215kg. Second was PP with about 120kg and last (even though we were not accepting it) we had the ever-present PET with over 75kg (we sent this straight to the municipality recycling facilities as Precious Plastic doesn't work with PET).

graph showing the amount of plastic collected by the neighbours
Graph showing the percentage of plastic collected by the neighbours.

Product design

Simultaneously we started to tinker and prototype what the final product could be. After the usual initial phase with wild ideas, we settled for a series of benches to be placed in the parks for people to use and live. The benches feature a sturdy metal frame with multiple thick plastic beams slid in to bring colour and carry the message.

Man working on the Precious Plastic extrusion machine.
Ludo working on the Precious Plastic extrusion machine.
man cutting a plastic beam
Ludo cutting a plastic beam.
a colleciton of colourful plastic beams
Colourful plastic beams.

Once ready, the benches were shown in a few exhibitions and galleries across Europe before making their way to their final destination, Woensel West park - where it all started.

colourful recycled benches in a park
Benches on location
Recycled beams close up.
Recycled beams close up.
benches close up with explanation
Graphic explanation for the neighbours.
Benches in the park

The benches are finally installed, just waiting for some sunny days in The Netherlands to see how people will use them and how long it will take before they're vandalised 🙈

What do you think? Like 'em? Would you want them in your local parks? Fire up the conversation on Patreon!

Now send it around :)
Picture of the author of the suggestion
Handpicked suggestion by
Mattia

This is exciting right.. find out how you can start a Collection Point or a Community Point to involve your local community or even better take a moment to consider how you could avoid plastic in your life in the first place.