Furniture that celebrates the death of single-use plastic

Cycl World is creating conscious consumers by leaving them no choice: their furniture is made from recycled plastic, is infinitely recyclable and looks so good that those who don’t care about saving waste will want it. way.

Lyrics by Megan Brownrigg

Photograph by Duncan Jaoc

For Sonam and Rohan, if it’s not a closed-loop economy, it’s not their jam. The designers knew that creating waste-free furniture wasn’t going to be easy, so they actively chose to do it the hard way. The pair have strayed from the obvious path of durable, functional, yet soulless pieces and strived to create compelling designs, dripping with aesthetic consideration, that are both upcycled and recyclable. Today, their company Cycl World uses post-industrial HDPE plastic to make stools, mirrors and lamps with clever lines that easily rival those of virgin materials, and have no carbon on their conscience.

“Let’s smash the world!” was the phrase between friends that gave birth to this business idea, according to co-founder Sonam. “Both Rohan and I had worked in alternative design fields and noticed how much waste this search for the most beautiful shapes could produce. From conception of the idea to prototyping to packaging and shipping possible, we’ve seen so many different waste points along that line.”

"People got to a point with design where they wanted the ultimate beauty of something. We tried to move away from that and embrace the imperfections.

With his bAs a landscape architect and vintage furniture dealer, Sonam advises me on some of these "inefficiencies". One of the most notable is that wood is almost always laminated in production lines, which immediately makes it unrecyclable. "Even when you think you're making this really pure organic product, you're adding all these contaminants every step of the way," he says. “Essentially, furniture had become fast furniture. And that was a very big problem for us.

Sonam would like to tell me that consumers make a big deal out of it, but he and Rohan have discovered that most people don't know about it and others don't care. In the age of IKEA and Pinterest, Most people just want nice things for their home.

Spittingly, the friends wondered how they could build furniture that works in trending fashion cycles, but also be endlessly recyclable.

Initially, they opted for something that is already recycled: used plastic. They swore to mold it in such a way that it could be recycled again. This is what forms a closed loop, no waste saving. But does it do pretty things?

“People got to a point with design where they wanted the ultimate beauty in something. We tried to move away from that and accept imperfections,” Sonam explains. “But durability has to be a design parameter. check base, this could never be our only selling point. We always need to do good things.

“But we wanted to go with the dirtiest contributor, so we stuck with it. Plus, plastic is also amazing at what it does.

The echoing wave of Cycl World's Nori stool, or the playful growth of their Gummy mirror, testify to this commitment. Sonam talks about her years selling furniture around the world, with her partner Clare, before Cycl World was conceived. “We handled so much furniture that we had a really good idea of ​​the design. We know what a good piece should look like,” he says. "I think an effective piece is a combination of something familiar, something organic, and something intriguing at the same time." With Rohan's publicity experience also in their arsenal, the pair were equipped to meet those demands. But most of the time it was practical challenges, rather than model visions, that led them to their final designs. The Nori stool, whose legs twist like seaweed, is a good example.

"We couldn't bend the plastic into a U shape because the mold would have cost $100,000," Sonam says in a neutral tone. "So we just repeated the U-shape and added the wave to it, which gives it this rhythmic movement. As a result, it looks alive and casts incredible shadows.

“Normally, people tell me about beautiful places to visit, but I don't really find inspiration there. Most of my favorite photos are taken in random places. An example of this is from my trip to Japan. I was there for a week but the best photos I took were from the port where you take the ferry to Naoshima Island.”

For this trip, Carla's guide had pointed out several arguably impressive, but conventional places in Tokyo and Kyoto that didn't elicit much creativity. It wasn't until she decided to stop planning altogether that she discovered the obscured shapes and colors of the landscape. Entitled 'unexpected japan', Carla's favorite images from this series were captured in the back streets of Uno Port. “I had free time during golden hour so I decided to go for a walk. There I found beautiful empty corners with the most amazing light,” says Step.

"“When they couldn't get the plastic from the heavily regulated supply chain, they borrowed milk bottles from cafes and scoured the streams for litter. To mold the prototypes, they used a mixer and a sandwich press.

The Nori may have been a fluke, but creating sexy, recyclable plastic furniture isn't the easiest design brief Sonam and Rohan have ever delivered on their own.

"Along the way we had so many people saying, this is the worst material to work with, don't do it to yourself, just use virgin plastic," Sonam laughs.

“But we wanted to go with the dirtiest contributor, so we stuck with it. Plus, plastic is also amazing at what it does. This one's longevity is its biggest issue when it's single-use, but when designed and used correctly, it's a durable, waterproof, and amazing material.

And also, for me, the more obstacles we encounter and the more we break down, the more innovative what we do is.

This was very innovative, considering Sonam estimates that he and Rohan hit a snag every other day for the first five months. When they couldn't source heavily regulated plastic for the supply chain, they borrowed milk bottles from cafes and scoured the creeks for trash. To mold the prototypes, they used a mixer and a sandwich press.

“Rohan and I don't want to be guardians of anything. We tell people everything we do, how we do it and where we get it from. Because otherwise, what's the point?

“Then we had to find machinists who were willing and able to cut recycled plastic to high specifications,” Sonam says as if talking about unicorns. “Plastic twists here and bows there, so cutting it properly requires someone special. After that it was a matter of finding people ready to pick up huge sheets of plastic (120 kg) in special trucks, shred them and repress them”

It breathes, but the obstacles and innovation don't stop there.

“Design-wise, one of our biggest challenges was not using glue (it contaminates the plastic),” says Sonam. “And then there's shipping and the fact that packaging is the biggest waste point of all. We have designed all of our bespoke boxes in Melbourne and have ensured that they are double walled to avoid the use of inserts or bubble wrap.

You'd think all that jumping around would make the boys of Cycl World protective of their creations. But they are almost ready to give them away.

"You don't live in a place that has a flood of 1 in 100 years every ten years and it doesn't displace you."

“Rohan and I don't want to be guardians of anything. We tell people everything we do, how we do it and where we get it from. Because otherwise, what's the point?

To save carbon, Sonam and Rohan would be more willing to outsource their designs to someone in another country, than ship their own products there. Their goal is not to be unique, but to pioneer a new standard.

“If we could make what we do a check mark, the new normal, then we did what we wanted to do,” Sonam says simply.

When asked if Australia's role on the frontlines of climate change has played into Cycl World's existence, he nods quite quickly.

"You don't live in a place with a flood of 1 in 100 years every 10 years without it moving you. When the weather becomes so constantly inconsistent, you realize that we are truly at the mercy of whatever is going on. Sonam modestly acknowledges that Cycl World cannot solve the problems of our warming world, but sees it as a small step towards solving waste in a way that could lead to a broader response. "When we told Clare's parents, they were so proud of me even though we hadn't done anything yet!" he's laughing. But it's not just the unconditional support of parents that Cycl World has garnered, the company has already attracted the curiosity of other designers, graphic designers and consumers across Australia. "Everyone has been amazing and super excited and wanting to know more. And now that we've done the beautiful high-level pieces, we want to make pieces that are easier to produce that people can use more often, like stackable stools . »

Inspired by their philosophy of using waste as a starting point for design, Cycl World is also set to release a lamp that uses scraps from the Nori Stool and Gummy Mirror. Sonam jokes how far this appetite for trash might go, thinking that in twenty years, if the paradigms change, trash might become so popular and ubiquitous that people will be like, "Hey, where can we get more trash?" We have no more waste!

While rolling his eyes at the volatility of human tendencies, Sonam recognizes that a global vogue for trash…is exactly what he's been looking for.

Find out more about Cycling World here.

Megan Brownrigg

Megan Brownrigg is a British writer. As a freelance journalist, Megan worked as a radio producer at the BBC and her writing has appeared in The Telegraph. She loves talking to people in their different places around the world and thinks it's the best way to travel sustainably. His blog The Ink Tapes describes his encounters in short stories.

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