Upcycling waste streams from recycling shops into usable furniture
ONBETAALBAAR vzw is a think tank that devises projects around discarded materials and strives for materialism with more emotion. With the PROTOTYPES project, we joined forces with eight designers and six custom-made companies to create new furniture from usable residual and waste flows.
Together with specialised companies, the designers were responsible for the design and the search for sustainable materials. Eight prototypes were born from this collaboration. The follow-up of the prototypes and further perfection of the production process took place in consultation with the customisation companies. This developed working model creates interesting economic opportunities for all partners, which fit perfectly into our vision of reuse and emotional materialism.
The eight prototypes are a series of various usable objects (lamp, table, chair, seating, side table...) that also have a certain aesthetic and ethical value. This gives us the opportunity to disseminate our vision more widely and to reach a wider or new audience: we prove visually that very attractive objects can still be created from residual materials.
The production processes are ready for an initial upscaling. Thanks to new external partnerships, our designs can transcend the studio.
We created eight prototypes, all of which consist of at least 75% recycled materials, are easy to manufacture by custom companies and can be used many times without loss of quality.
Intensive cooperation with several customisation companies developed. This created jobs for tailor-made companies that are good at the serial work needed for certain designs, while it allowed us to invest more time in thinking and designing.
By developing prototypes from residual materials, we are helping to reduce the waste mountain, although the real impact is still limited. We are currently working mainly on an ideological and inspirational level: we are demonstrating that it is possible to create attractive objects from residual materials.
MOST IMPORTANT LESSONS LEARNED
Initially, we wanted to develop prototypes based on waste materials that are difficult to process. This soon proved to be too complex to set up a uniform production process. The regulations and safety instructions for larger production runs and for use in public spaces also formed a barrier.
Although we are doing our bit ecologically by working with residual materials, it requires extensive specialisation to have a substantial impact, as well as large clients and large orders. For this, we must first further optimise our production process.
The price of our objects is currently too high for the private market, which gives priority to lower prices via online sales, IKEA, etc. Pricing remains a difficult exercise: how to attract a broad public through an affordable price that still covers costs and is fair?
We still have a shortage of work and storage space to scale up prototype production. We also need pre-financing for investments we cannot make ourselves. A system of pre-financing by (future) users or ambassadors could be a solution.
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?
ONBETAALBAAR will continue on the same path: up-cycling waste and residual flows into usable objects with a high aesthetic value, manufactured in a socially ethical way.
The next step is to further develop, refine and implement a marketing plan. Instead of a classic sales approach, we want to establish a user community. This will consist of ambassadors who will be closely involved in the development of new prototypes, who will help to spread our ideas, but who will also be prepared to help with pre-financing. For example, we want to set up a kind of rent-and-buy system whereby a user decides at the end of the year to keep the rented objects for an extra contribution, or renews the rental contract and replaces the old object with a new one.
We also want to further scale up the integration of prototypes in other (interior) commissions: we want to incorporate one or more prototypes in every commission we win, as a kind of signature of ONBETAALBAAR.
We also want eight external sales points for our prototypes. These should lead to a wider distribution of our objects and our ideas. We want to consolidate our early partnerships with DOX, Showtex, NNOF and BULO and we are continuing talks with Kringwinkel Ateljee.