In the push towards sustainability many companies turn towards new and recycled materials. One such company offers a composite material made from 50 percent post-consumer recycled paper (100%) and 50 percent renewable bamboo fiber. From the companies of Kliptech and Richlite we see innovators marketing these materials to a variety of clients: skate-parks, commercial food service, boat building, architectural cladding and still more to come.
These companies developed a material from renewable and recycled materials. They also innovated in their new application of these materials. For many years the term ‘recycle’ meant taking a used plastic bottle, melting, cleaning, processing it and then molding what was salvageable into a new plastic bottle. The material loses its integrity after a short while and then is discarded as garbage. For these composite wood materials, the companies are extending the previous life of the materials into a more substantial application.
These material innovations create beautiful and challenging concepts, but to claim sustainability there is a higher standard to attain. The energy used in producing these materials and the waist of the material as it becomes a product should also be within the realm of concern when these companies claim to be sustainable. Often this is aided by a collaboration with the designers of the products from these materials.
While in Duluth recently, I came across a very clever company of innovative designers. They started by making skate-parks, then moved toward kitchen supplies. As they advance their company, they prioritize the use of sustainable materials and an economic business model. The sustainable materials they use are more expensive, possibly because of the extra processing it takes to recycle a material, yet they still choose to use this material. Part of their economic business model then becomes getting the most product out of the material they buy. For this reason they are looking to the scraps left behind from their cutting boards and making more sell-able products.
In this flow from material production to design to product to consumer and back to the material: the responsibility of the sustainable outcome requires the people in each phase to make the more economic choice. For the producer that can be using recycled material rather than buying new. The designer can tailor the scale of the product and the method of production to be efficient and effective for the consumer. In this model everyone can agree, but the key to this process is prolonging the use of a product within the consumer’s realm. The consumer gets to choose how long they keep their composite paper cutting board or siding for their house or skate-park. If the consumer chooses to replace their product from recycled materials with a less sustainable option they put the entirety of the efforts of the producer and designer to waist. They also are aiding in the production of an unsustainable product. Keeping the material process transparent supports the efforts that are sparking innovation across the world.