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Best of 2019: Furniture made from unrecyclable paper fibres

Originally published on 25 January

Dutch designer Tim Teven created a new material made from unrecyclable paper fibres, also known as screen, which he used to make building blocks for furniture.

Paper is easily recyclable, but it can’t be recycled endlessly. The cellulose fibres can be recycled up to 7 times. In the recycling factory, unwanted materials are taken out, including plastic, stones, metal and wood. The process also takes out fibres that are not recyclable anymore, a leftover material that is also known as screen. While screen is not harmful to the environment – it consists of only cellulose fibres, after all – it generally remains unused.

Teven’s project Recycling Reject was born when he visited a paper recycling factory and found that the recycling process generates huge amounts of waste. A single paper recycling factory can collect up to 4,000 tons of screen per year. “The aim is to give function and visual value to the material and introduce it back into our lives as a sustainable object,” Teven says. “Not only to give the material a function again, but also as a tool to tell the story of the unrecyclable fibre and the fact that paper is not infinitely recyclable.”

Teven worked closely with the Smurfit Kappa recycling facility in Roermond, which provided him with the screen waste for the project.

Because the factory does all the separating of the waste materials, the screen is clean of any solids, harmful chemicals, food substances and ink. To create the new material, Teven shreds the screen waste, and combines it with mineral-based pigments and a binding agent. The material is then pressure-compressed into a mould.

Teven used the material to make building blocks to construct several interior pieces, including shelves, benches, tables, and stools.

Photos: Iris Rijskamp / Tim Teven