Furniture made from recycled polystyrene

Designer Sam Lander dissolves polystyrene to create pieces of furniture.

Polystyrene is a much loved, but also notoriously difficult to recycle packaging material. Inspired by a YouTube video of someone explaining how to get rid of polystyrene packaging waste, Lander decided to dissolve the polystyrene using a chemical. The chemical breaks up the polystyrene until a kind of goo is formed, which can be used to make all kinds of products. Through heat, the moisture is evaporated until the goo sets.

According to Lander, the material is very difficult to work with, but also has surprising properties. One advantage is that if a work doesn’t turn out the way he wants, the material can be melted down again to be reused. Additionally, the material can be tailored to suit different applications. For instance, it can be made more translucent for applications that require light, and in conjunction, it can be made into a structural material.

Currently, Lander is focusing on making furniture. He created a machine that uses centrifugal force to hollow materials out to the edges of the mould, to make lampshades and other things, like spun tables.

“I want to see where the capabilities of this material lie,” Lander states. “In a simple material way, all this commercial waste has lead me to think of how I can re-purpose this material and make something from this waste, what’s the need as a designer to buy a material? There’s loads of great waste material, which have so many capabilities within it still to create a great piece of furniture. There are so many processes of working in different ways with this waste to create something beautiful.”

Photos: Sam Lander