Design and plastic recycling: interview with Icelandic design studio Plastplan
Turning around societies unhealthy relationship with plastic – scroll down to go behind Plastplan’s one-of-a-kind vision.
Strongly emphasizing on the belief that recycled plastic holds a lot of potential – Plastplan is a design and plastic recycling studio based in Reykjavík and brilliantly formed in 2019 by Björn Steinar and Brynjólfur.
An interesting blend with Steinar’s product design background and Brynjólfur´s experience in computer science as well as mechanical engineering – the duo is extremely diverse, focusing on separate sectors of this fascinating operation.
Seamlessly featuring a mélange of colorful and experimental designs – they showcased ‘Everyday’ at DesignMarch 2022 in Gallery Port – an eclectic collection of furniture and household goods crafted from recycled plastic.
Learning on the go and pushing the boundaries of plastic with low and high-tech machines – these alluring products are the results of years of development that Plastplan will continuously keep building on.
In the last few years, the studio has – designed, developed, built machines and processes to recycle plastic that they further skillfully utilize to fabricate various fascinating objects.
Their exhibition ‘Prototype’ is the second phase in a massive project that aims to increase secondary production from recycled plastic with a strong focus on product development.
We decided to go behind the scenes with Björn Steinar and know more about their journey so far:
What sparked the need for Plastplan to be born?
Björn Steinar: Plastplan was simply born out of necessity. Today, there is next to no secondary industry dealing with recycled plastic in Iceland – we are one of the two companies on the island.
The other one solely focuses on recycling post-consumer plastic to pellets on a large scale but we operate on a smaller scale in perfect circulation – from trash to products.
I have always focused on design works revolving around social and environmental issues.
This started when I was working with a global plastic recycling collective called Precious Plastic, founded in Eindhoven by Dave Hakkens back in 2017.
However, after moving back to Iceland – Brynjólfur joined me to start a social workspace to create a platform that talks about the problem of plastic and this gradually turned into a company and design studio over the years.
What was the thought process and inspiration behind starting this studio and focusing on recycling plastic in particular?
Björn Steinar: Sprouting from curiosity – the real inspiration was the lack of interest from authorities. We wanted to create an educational platform to be able to talk about the issue of plastic in Iceland.
Along the way we realized that this problem was not resolved by only shredding the plastic and that in order for the plastic to be fully recycled, we needed to make it go full circle – right from shredded plastic to brand new objects.
What kinds of machines for plastic recycling has Plastplan developed?
Björn Steinar: Well most of our machines are based on the Precious Plastic designs comprising – injection and extrusion machines, shredders and a sheet press.
We have modified these to serve our needs better but we have also additionally designed and developed our very own machines such as – an industrial 3D printer from scratch.
This printer was designed together with Arngrímur and Flosi Hrannar and is our dream machine that enables us to make quality large scale items without producing very expensive molds for casting.
It can produce 1m3 design items, including everything – right from hanging lights to chairs and it works very much like rapid prototyping tools even though it produces finished outputs.
What are the different types of functional objects that are further created?
Björn Steinar: Plastplan crafts all kinds of products in varying shapes and sizes – from recycled plastic. We service nine local companies – this includes us picking up their plastic weekly, recycling the materials and returning the same plastic in the shape of a new functional object.
A regular day at Plastplan includes producing – 60 windshield scrapers and 250 trophy coins with injection molding, 2 sheets that we use to produce stools, tables as well as lamps and printing 3-4 flower pots with our industrial 3D printer.
What is your most favorite part of this whole process?
Björn Steinar: To begin with – the least enjoyable but most crucial part of the whole process is to sort the plastic into the seven categories of consumer plastic, cleaning and shredding.
After that every single step of producing new valuable items from recycled plastic is great fun! That’s really what keeps us going!
We meet a million challenges with recycling plastic and occasionally need to re-design our machines and processes. However – every single step that leads us to a better output is a step worth taking!
How does Plastplan aim to turn around society’s unhealthy relationship with plastic?
Björn Steinar: We believe that with every single item we produce – we are showcasing the true potential that recycled plastic holds and this helps in changing perspectives towards the material and throw-away culture!