The information online about Reuse Reduce Recycle is overwhelming. These are hardly new concepts. Nowadays it seems that any product that is not made out of freshly processed materials or anything that’s not purchased brand new can find a way to called them themselves recycling. I then started thinking we are being trained to be designers that make new products, and we want people to buy new products. Do these concepts really go hand in hand, or we just make something out of old junk and move on?
So I cleared out my mind and really tried to understand the purpose of reuse or recycle a product.
Reuse a product means to use a product again after it finishes its serving time. It can be used for the same function; say a lot of hotels encourage guests to use their towels or bed sheet more than once to save water. But there is not much design opportunity in that. It can be used for different function, and that’s what we called repurpose. There are a lot of design opportunities!
The most simple way to reuse a product is almost like you are a caveman and you are given these used products without user guides, so you may use them in a totally different way than what we normally used it for without change much about these products. A more complicated way to reuse is to make some changes to the existing products or parts of them. Many DIY projects online are falling into this category. Maybe you have a product that’s partially worn out but you don’t want to throw away the good part of it, then you find a way to incorporate to a design project.
Recycle a product is often breaking down the products into raw materials or at least treat them as materials, and make new things out of it. If you make something with better quality or have better value than the current material that has been used for certain product, then it’s called upcycle. Or if you make something with lower quality or lower value you are downcycling. There are a lot of definitions about recycle, upcycle, downcycle but my understanding is what are you trying to do?
Either way we can reduce fresh materials or energy been used or reduce the pollution that may be caused during the process. In the process of prolong the lifespan or continue the lifecycle, we have the design opportunity to add values and apply our creative thinking and skills. Reuse Reduce Recycle is especially important for us as designers so we won’t let today’s design become tomorrow’s problem.
That being said, my focus for this project is to reuse outdated or unwanted newspaper or magazines.
People have been claiming that print media is dead, but judging by the amount of newspaper and magazines I receive everyday I don’t think that’s entirely true. And as I was trying to collect materials for this project I notices there are quite a lot of magazine stands at corners of a bookstore or coffee shop that have newspapers piling up and collecting dust. In the project I explore the material properties and various options of utilizing them. My goal is to propose a way to reuse large amount of outdated or unwanted newspaper and magazines by taking advantages of the form and structure they already have, and possibly encourage people to keep reusing them.
That is how I came up with Roll ‘n’ Reuse.
After playing with magazines and newspaper I found that even each one of them is very flimsy, when layer tightly together they are stable, they can hold weight and they are relatively easy to manipulate without requiring power tools.
Also when you combine different sizes of the roll you can use them either as a coffee table, or use them as a stool.
More importantly, as you get more newspaper and magazines it’s easier to add them to the rolls to create customized shapes, so you might have a bigger surface or a taller stool.
I think this set of furniture will look really nice in a relaxing reading environment, and it makes sense because that’s where people get newspaper and magazines which makes it the easiest place to reuse them on site.
Next time when I get magazines, I will choose my favorite pages and make them the front page of my coffee table.
Q & A:
Why don’t you just throw them in the recycling bin?
–It is a question that can be generalized to ‘if a product is made of recyclable material, should we still reuse them?’ My answer is yes. By reusing products without reprocessing, it helps save time, money, energy and resources. As simple as printing your document in both sides of the page is an act of reusing, and it is doing something good for the environment than throw it in the recycling bin printed only on one side.