Furniture designer and eco-warrior Noel Tañada has developed a stylish solution to reduce plastic waste. Shampoo sachets and junk food packets that could otherwise clog waterways and endanger ecosystems are recycled into functional and attractive objects.
Tañada is undoubtedly the first Filipino designer to produce and market furniture and accessories constructed entirely from ocean debris transformed into recycled plastic wood and plywood.
“We combined plastics with aluminum and paper waste into this box. It looks like regular 4-by-8-foot plywood,” says Tañada. The product, called Ecomarine, is distributed by one of its companies, Alpha District Development Solutions. This endeavor of using debris as a design material promotes greater collection of plastic waste.
Smaller in size, faux wood sheets are made from 100% rigid plastic for inflexible strength, while faux plywood is a composite of elastic plastic and other waste materials. Plastic plywood, although softer, is versatile as it is used to make tables, chairs, benches, drawers and interior surface treatments. Plastic wood is transformed into crates, pallets and trays.
“I imagined new products for commercial use. Furniture will not be eaten by termites. They are waterproof, fireproof and insect resistant,” explains Tañada.
His condo in Muntinlupa was renovated into a showroom with walls made of recycled plastic plywood. “After the condo was vacated, the place was full of termites. I replaced the wood on the floor and walls with our upcycled plastic boards. I don’t have to worry about the rest of my life. The interiors will not be affected by rain, warped by heat or eaten away by termites,” he says.
He discovered the possibilities of plastic when a supplier created a sheet that looked like plywood but was made from plastic waste.
The product complements the vision of conserving ocean resources and aquatic life (coral). Created by Tañada and his wife Michelle, this non-profit organization helps clean up coasts and protect marine life. While extracting debris from the beach in the Dolomites, the designer was amazed by the volume and variety of waste.
“On the shore, I saw the same colors on the debris, like silver, orange, blue, yellow and red, as those on the recycled plastic board,” recalls he.
When Coral carries out coastal cleanups, which is the process of collecting waste from the waters and recording the quantity and quality of the waste, the waste is sold to the supplier. In turn, the litter is cleaned, pulverized, melted, pressed into pellets and reshaped. After the raw materials are processed into plastic wood planks, Tañada purchases from the supplier and shapes the sheets into functional works of art.
Tañada discovered upcycling in the United States while working for such well-known brands as Drexel Heritage, Ethan Allen, Ralph Lauren and Crate & Barrel. It offers a variety of wood finishes such as wenge that could be produced on a plastic wood board.
Returning home, he created EcoHome Art, the leading brand of furniture, lighting and accessories using recycled waste. Water hyacinths, which clog waterways and disturb wildlife, and discarded doypacks, which function like plastic, are recycled into upholstery for loveseats, lampshades, baskets and planters. Palochines from abandoned crates become benches, furniture frames and tables. Reinforced bars appear in Tañada’s bolder designs.
Its latest line of recycled waterway debris is called Wasto (Tagalog for “proper”), which is a pun on “waste.” This line is the designer’s way of reducing plastic. “Wasto is a brand of essential products such as street benches, trash cans and floor coverings,” he explains.
Besides home and office furniture, Tañada has created other uses for plastic waste. Ecomarine sheet is the main material of the speaker’s podium in a beauty pageant. Combined with plastic lumber, Ecomarine board is used to make trash cans and rafts. To make it a rescue vessel, the raft is supported by a structural foundation: a pallet infused with plastic and powered by solar lights he designed.
What’s next for Tañada? He is eyeing recycled agricultural waste. —INQ CONTRIBUTED