The sustainability of recycled plastic board as a material for fitted furniture.

Tristan Titeux’s Pioneering Journey to find the most sustainable eco-friendly materials to design and build Empatika’s bespoke Fitted Furniture.

My mission is to help improve your environment by showing you that the choices you make everyday have an impact and make a big difference in the world.

If we all make a difference to spend our money a little more carefully, we will live in a better more peaceful cleaner world. We want our children to look back and say, “they nearly made us all extinct, but they quickly got their act together at the last minute”.

My journey started in December 2010 when I decided to research and publish my findings of various materials that are available on the European and World market but specially the UK.

Following on from the past few months at looking into boards made from hemp and straw, this month I am looking at recycled plastic board which is a very good way of diverting your waste to landfill and making something aesthetic and useful out of it. Did you know that you can take old Bank of England notes and shred them and suspend them in plastic made of corrugated conservatory roofing material amongst other things to make beautiful see through sheets? They really come alive when you install lights shining through them.

Tables made with recycled plastic from Smile plastics with Bank Of England notes suspended inside. Designed by Tim Coutts

Three tables designed by Tim Coutts featuring recycled plastic from Smile Plastics.

Smile Plastics in Shrewsbury take the waste from your recycling box and municipal waste and turn it into all sorts of colourful boards, others include the Jazz board that comes out yellow and blue due to the yellow gas pipe and blue water board pipe offcuts that are ground and blended together.

The Blue and Yellow door is from the Jazz range made of Gass and Water Pipe off cuts. Toilets by AAZTEC[/caption] They also produce a board made of confiscated illicit CD’s that are crushed and dispersed in a pale blue polycarbonate material that they have recycled from blue, cold water drinks containers.

Here is the recycled plastic sheet made form crushed confiscated illicit CD’s. Tristan Titeux used this plastic as part of his Pioneering project named “Stram Straw” (after the  name Stramit who make it) using straw in a way never used in fitted furniture before.

This is a beautiful sample of PET recycled plastic with grass inside it. A great material to use as a feature in fitted furniture with a light behind for example.

This incinerator is based in Stoke. UK Pic from: InPlaceOfFear[/caption] Recycling plastic in this way uses between 50 and 70% of the energy that would be used to create sheets from virgin material, which means that not only are you not pulling more oil out of the earth and all the consequences of that, and on top you are reusing a material and saving space and pollution in the landfill and the watercourses around it for miles or polluting the air with incinerators.

It is becoming increasingly expensive to  take waste to landfill, with recycling rubbish you can get money form the waste instead of having to pay to throw it away, it now makes economic sense to do this, whereas before companies did not get any incentive for recycling their rubbish unless they where a really eco aware company who cared and understood the importance of caring for their environment.

” the by-products of oil we do have should be put to good use”

Plastic is not the best of materials, but we have it, plenty of it, so ignoring it and throwing it away

is not a good idea, it is best to reuse it and recycle it as much as possible until it is not possible anymore. I think we should not pump out anymore oil of course, but the by-products of oil we do have should be put to good use. Here is a great example of the kind of company that is doing things right, they are not taking not even recycling the plastic, but better reusing it as it is in the state it is, that is the ultimate in recycling! They are called Recycle Your Media and are the kind of company others from all sectors including furniture making should aspire to.

“the first plastic invented was an organic material derived from cellulose, if we could do it then, imagine the amazing materials we could make from plants now!”

The first man made plastic was invented by Alexander Parkes who demonstrated it in public for the first time at the 1862 Great International Exhibition in London. This materials was called Parkesine and was an organic materials derived from cellulose. Years later in 1950 the world was using 5 million tonnes of plastic, this increased to 100 million tonnes in 2001. What a shame plastic was later made from oil instead of plant based material. But it seems we have to learn from our mistakes, hit rock bottom before coming back round again in a circle and realising that we need to use renewable plant based materials once again.

Alexander Parkes

Interesting plastic facts.

Packaging represents the largest single sector of plastics used in the UK and represents a 35% chunk, the next is building and construction which uses 23% so it is great plastics are being recycled into board that can be used in construction of houses and fitted furniture.

recycled plastic bottle would save enough energy to power a 60-watt light bulb for 3 hours. There are now around 50 different groups of plastics and hundreds of different varieties. All types of plastic are recyclable, unfortunately not all types are currently collected or recycled by most councils, I hope that this becomes a priority soon, then we will be able to have an even more spectacular variety of boards.

One tonne of plastics is equivalent of 20000 two litre drinks bottles.

The Amount of plastic waste generated annually in the UK is estimated to be nearly 3 million tonnes. 56% of that plastic is used in packaging, three quarters of which is from households. It is also estimated that only 7% of plastic is being recycled. This is one good reason to choose goods with less packaging such as that found in farmers markets and traditional markets made of recycled paper.

57% of litter found on beaches in 2003 was plastic.

According to a 2001 Environment Agency report, 80% of post-consumer plastic waste is sent to landfill, 8% is incinerated and only 7% is recycled.

If you are interested to know more about how we can help you can contact us at

If I can do anything to help let me know.

Tristan Titeux,

3rd Novmber 2011 Follow me @TristanTiteux  on Twitter

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