Notjustuseless project turns recycled plastic straws into fabric

NOTJUSTUSELESS, a project by Hungarian designer Katalin Huszár, is an experimental eco-design initiative to collect and reuse plastic straws and turning them into fabric.

Plastic straws have been in the news a lot, mostly because of bans for single use plastics and their environmental impact. Most people will know the video of the turtle with a straw up its nostril. Straws are made from polypropylene, which in itself is highly recyclable, but straws rarely are.

The NOTJUSTUSELESS project, which both stresses that straws are not just useless, but also that it’s important not just to use less, was influenced by the straw-littered streets of Bairro Alto, Portugal. The idea is to collect straws separately from other waste in special containers so that designers can create new objects, installations and textures. A QR code on the collecting boxes navigates to the page of the projects, allowing you to follow the whole process.

Huszár experimented with the use of straws, turning them into colourful bookmarks and fabric. The fabrics consists of a combination of synthetic (polyethylene) or natural (cotton, jute, cork) fabric, to which the straws are attached in various patterns, like squares or lines.

The combination of plastic with other materials changes its features. It can result in a composite material with new qualities, such as abrasion resistance, waterproofing, increased flexibility or improved resistance to chemicals. The plastic can be used to create a heavy-duty, but still skin-friendly and soft material.

Huszár states, “Varying the thickness and qualities of fabrics used and spacing between plastic sheets can result in different shapes and structures. As example, straws combined with a thin fabric can produce a foldable, 3D structure.” The different base materials can completely modify the end result of the design. The samples created by Huszár represent only a few potential looks. The colour variation of the straws depends on the supply of the collected straws. Colour mixes can be achieved by layering straws, as well as by using different base colours.

According to Huszár, a potential use of the fabric is the use for interior decoration, such as curtains, tablecloths and lamps, in the café or restaurant where the straws were collected, raising awareness. In addition, plastic strips made from the straws could also be used to bind fabrics and replacing sewing in seams, as well as glue. “You can use them to form the corner of a bag, in the edge of a coat or pocket,” Huszár says. “Even making buttonless closing systems or other clothing details.”

Photos: Katalin Huszár