This article is part of Precious Plastic, a One Army project tackling the plastic waste problem. You can learn morehere
Furniture has always been the holy grail of product design from the dawn of times when people didn’t call themselves designers and were simply making things for homes. Naturally, Precious Plastic and the community have gotten busy experimenting and creating furniture from recycled plastic. With the addition of the Pro machines in Version 4, many workspaces took the higher production rate of these machines and started making larger products.
Furniture allow for greater amounts of plastic to be recycled and can showcase the strength, durability and beauty of the material. Furniture is something that is rarely replaced. It is bought for homes and stays there for many years (hopefully). So why not use recycled plastic (that will take centuries to degrade) for furniture?
How furniture is made with Precious Plastic machines
With the release of Version 4 in 2020, furniture production became a lot more viable. Because of the large amount of recycled plastic required to make larger products, like tables and chairs, the new Sheetpress and Extruder PRO became the central machines for furniture design.
Workspaces like Precious Plastic Ukraine pioneered working with sheets to create larger furniture pieces that can be seen across Kyiv. The Sheetpress offers a huge benefit when wanting to make furniture. The raw sheets can be used as-is for tabletops or stool tops. Or they can be machined to make more detailed parts to form stools like Fab Unit or Norwegian Trash. Machining leads to endless possibilities. Stools, cabinetry, and tables to mention a few.
Combining and mixing the right colours, sheets can mimic the look of traditional materials like stone or terrazzo styles. Check out Plastic Stone Tiles and Precious Plastic Georgia for some serious inspiration.
If furniture is your jam, make sure to check out the how-tos where people share how they make furniture or dive deep into the Ultimate Guide to the Sheetpress.
The Extruder machine and Extrusion PRO machine provides a lot of possibilities when it comes to making furniture. With these machines, you can make beams. Beams can be machined and used as wood or metal so whatever can be made with those materials, recycled plastic can be used instead. Beams can be used to great effect, Samsara and their Nicobar Lounge Chair are a great example of this.
The cross-sections of beams provide interesting patterns and will add subtle details to a product. This can be seen in the Version 4 pink bench (below). A fully pink bench with blue cross-sections makes it very playful.
Like with the Sheetpress, we provide many different how-tos to best work with beams to create the furniture pieces of your dreams. If you would like to learn more about the Extrusion Machine check out the Ultimate Guide.
Benefits of making furniture from recycled plastic
A lot of furniture, especially industrialised fast furniture, is made with virgin materials. With brands like IKEA making it incredibly affordable to have “designer” furniture in your home, as a result furniture has increased in its turnover rate over the years. They are no longer made to last but rather to be replaced with newer trends. The trees in plantations, stone and metal from quarries and mining, a lot goes into the furniture bought today. Virgin plastic is increasingly being used in furniture, especially outdoor and kids furniture. Now, why aren’t these products made from recycled plastic? It provides a lot of the same qualities that traditional materials do. And when combined with them can accentuate the strength and look of the material.
A lot of the metal and wooden furniture needs to be varnished and painted to not degrade or get the look wanted. If colours are chosen correctly recycled plastic can easily achieve this without polishing or post-production. Look at work from Norwegian Trash and many others below to see the unique qualities of the material.
Working with plastic is a new craft and making furniture shows it off. The craftsmanship displayed pushes the craft further. So, if you want to flex your designer muscles, why not having a go at making a larger piece of furniture?
At the end of 2018, Jaden Smith visited the Precious Plastic team during Version 4. He tasked the team to create a boardroom meeting table for him. Now this table needed to be big and special. We wanted the table to look like a big chunk of stone or marble, so Johe Bruneau got to work and used the Extrusion machine to craft this table from old CD cases. See the full story in the video below.
HOW - TO’s
Over the years Precious Plastic has researched and shared quite some techniques and video tutorials on how to transform plastic waste into precious furniture. Additionally, in the last few years a bunch of people in our community have also contributed some How-tos sharing with the world how they make furniture with recycled plastic. All the techniques make for a variety of different outcomes so be sure to play around and see what you can come up with! If you have a how-to you wish to share, submit it here!
Make a Stool with Woodworking Techniques
Recycled plastic is an incredibly versatile material. It can be worked with many techniques that you may already know. If you have a history with woodworking, you can easily transfer that knowledge to recycled plastic. So next time when you are working with wood, think about whether you can use recycled plastic instead. Also, if you don't know what you're doing when it comes to woodworking, do not stress this how-to walks you through the entire process!
Make an Extruded Lamp - KOUN 🇲🇦
This is a simple yet highly effective technique. The methods shown in this how-to by KOUN allow you to experiment with how the plastic forms around a simple shape. The lamp is just a starting point and this technique can be used for a multitude of different products.
Make a Shelf - Menor Plastic 🇪🇸
This technique from Menor Plastic showcases the power of combining outputs from different machines. Using the classic tiles made from the Injection machine and small beams from the Basic Extrusion machine shows that a lot can come from little. The technique is also transferable to bigger products like chairs and tables.
Make a Chair with Bent Sheets
Plastic can be formed easily with a touch of heat. This chair utilises two different how-tos (bend plastic sheets and make a mould to bend sheets). With these how-tos, you can make designer chairs that look right at home in high-end furniture stores. Experiment with the shapes and styles and push the material further!
Make a Squat Stool - Basic Shit 🇮🇳
A different take on the stool. The design techniques shown in this how-to can be transferred to your next furniture endeavours. Using one sheet and creating all parts needed out of it allows for minimal offcuts and ease of manufacturing. If you don’t want to make a squat stool, you can see how they join the parts and cut the design out of their sheets and apply those techniques to your next project.
Make a Bench with Beams
Most benches around the world are made from plastic and rarely is it recycled. In this how-to, we walk you through the process to make a recycled plastic bench. You can use wood for the seat or go all out on plastic. Your choice!
Workspaces making furniture:
There are many Precious Plastic workspaces around the world making furniture out of recycled plastic. These are just a handful of some incredibly dedicated and talented workspaces doing great work to transform plastic waste into precious furniture! Check out the Bazar to find furniture being sold.
These workspaces provide plenty of inspiration to help you get started on the right track. They use a variety of techniques and machines to create their styles. Find a style you like? Figure out how they create their furniture and start experimenting, find your style and start inspiring others to join Precious Plastic.
Precious Plastic Ukraine 🇺🇦
A staple of the Precious Plastic furniture community. Precious Plastic Ukraine has been impacting their local community in Kyiv and Odesa with their high-quality furniture pieces. Being one of the first spaces to utilize large sheet production, they have created everything from benches to outdoor play equipment to high-end indoor pieces to facades. A team that keeps impressing with every creation; we cannot wait to see what they do next.
Prad and Lala from Chennai have been producing furniture with beams for a while now but have recently started to experiment with sheets. The sheets add so much to the already high-quality and chic furniture. They take it to the next level of high-end pieces. If you haven’t heard about them already, they are definitely a workspace to keep an eye on.
Johe Bruneau 🇫🇷
Johe takes working with plastic to a whole new level of craftsmanship. The mastermind behind the Jaden Smith table, Johe impresses with every piece he creates. Each piece has a story tied to it which adds a further dimension to the work.
Still Life 🇬🇧
Out of Glasgow comes Aaron and Will who have perfected a hands-on craft for creating high quality and fun stools. These stools are made with a simple method using an oven and a hydraulic press. This method allows them to control the pattern on the stools, and coupled with reclaimed handcrafted wooden legs, creates an impeccable product. A simple but highly effective product - love it!
Norwegian Trash 🇳🇴
Focusing on the beauty of recycled plastic is key to changing perspectives. The team at Norwegian Trash have been doing just that. Focusing on colour selection, they have been able to craft stone-like products. Their cabinet rivals traditional materials. They use a lot of different sources of plastic but tend to focus more on the ocean and marine waste.
Fab Unit 🇫🇷
Fab Unit is quite a recent addition to the Precious Plastic Community, starting up late 2020. But they have burst onto the scene with slick sheet work, mainly using the sheets for clean furniture. They use the sheets for office desks whilst also making portable versions. They combine wood to add a different look to their products. Only being so young it is exciting to see where they go next!
Plastic Guys 🇨🇿
Plastic Guys have been making big waves in the Czech Republic, doing a lot of commissioned work as well as their own endeavours. They specialise in sheet making and turning the raw material into detailed stone-like pieces.
Robries Gallery 🇮🇩
Robries, from day 1, have set their sights on creating sustainable home furnishings. They have been excelling in the craft of making pieces entirely out of plastic. They have been collaborating with other brands around Indonesia to create timeless pieces entirely out of recycled plastic.
Precious Plastic Georgia 🇬🇪
Starting as a collection and community space, Precious Plastic Georgia has been crafting tables, chairs and swings. These items are made from sheets and showcase the fun and exciting colours that recycled plastic has to offer.
Creating smart designs and high quality products, Necológica has been a great reference for South America. With a simple one material setup and easily movable, the stools are just another furniture piece that shows the variety of recycled plastic.
Like jewellery, furniture shifts people’s minds around what recycled plastic can be. Rivalling the beauty of traditional stones, the workability of wood and the malleability of metal, recycled plastic could shake the way furniture is made. These Precious Plastic workspaces are changing the way we see plastic, as a material that can be used to create strong and worthy furniture pieces. Remember to support these workspaces' amazing work and be inspired by the possibilities.