HIERARCHY OF REUSING
Material use always needs to come with a sense of care. Natural resources are limited. Not being careful with the amount we use, will have a negative impact on our climate and natural habitat. That is obvious.
With a few exceptions, we see pollution as a structural problem. By being more careful how much and where we use, we can significantly reduce our use of resources, which obviously will have a positive effect on our natural surroundings.
We see this on a macro-scale, but as well when we zoom in on certain areas – like waste management. Waste is not just waste.
If we take wood as an example, “waste wood” comes in many different kinds, sizes, and qualities. All these have a different structural value. It is important that the value is recognized and respected to have a recycling that’s as broad as possible, and not to create downcycling.
As a furniture designer working with waste material, I see a gigantic number of resources that are not valued as they should.
I, as an ethical furniture maker, save a log building from a container or a fire. I could choose to cut those logs into thin planks and use them in my furniture production, accompanied by a beautiful story about how I reused something that would have gone to waste anyway.
If focus was only on reusing, this would not be a problem. But when we look at the structural aspect of recycling, it is obvious that sawing those big beams into planks or furniture parts is not a good idea. The beams would be much better off directly used in a building, due to their structural qualities. House builders need their structural wood, which is a certain cut from a tree.
We need a more inclusive recycling process. We must figure out what we really need and what we can use, and make sure not to devaluate specific materials.
If I would not be thoughtful and I would devaluate those beams, I would create a pathway to the forest for my colleagues, the house builders, which misses my ethical intention completely.
This is why I choose to design my furniture from waste wood that is considered structurally worthless. It is more than good enough for furniture.
– We must be very careful how we approach waste. We can make the waste problem bigger, or simply maintain a linear waste process, if we don’t carefully recognize the materials. If we use the same mentality for waste as for conventional resources, we just maintain the problem, since pollution is structural.
Pieter Van Tulder, 2050 furniture designer
It is important that certain materials’ life span is extended as much as possible, but that doesn’t go for all types of material. Obviously, chemicals and products contaminated with chemicals, need to be processed with care by specialists or in specialized facilities.