Innovation That Matters

Project recycles office chairs into backpacks and bicycle panniers

Work & Lifestyle

A student from Birmingham City University has come up with an award-winning idea that makes use of unwanted office furniture.


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A project design student has come up with a unique way to recycle the parts of office chairs that traditionally end up thrown away. Thomas Howell-Jones, a student at Birmingham City University, has created Rest, a new product that transforms the backrests of office chairs into bags.

Every year over 810,000 office chairs are thrown away in the UK alone. While it’s easier to recycle some of the small parts of the chairs, a lot of the bulkier elements end up in landfill sites. In order to reduce that waste, Thomas examined the larger parts to see how they could be recycled into something new and original. After several attempts at different designs, Thomas decided that the backrests were ideal as hard-shell backpacks and bicycle panniers. The backrests act as a protective shell, and are waterproof and impact-proof, making them the ideal carrying device for cyclists.

“Realising that a backpack was possible from office chair waste was the turning point for the project,” says Thomas. “The process from realization to outcome was very enjoyable, and I now look forward to developing the range.”

It would seem that it’s not only Thomas who thinks that Rest is a good idea, as he won an award at the RSA Student Designs Award due to its innovation and clever use of recycling. Thomas isn’t resting on his laurels though, and is already looking at other waste products to see how they can be transformed into something new and useful.

Thankfully there are plenty of other groups and organizations out there looking to recycle as much as possible. Globechain is an organization that helps businesses to rehome unwanted equipment, and a San Francisco design company is making stylish women’s shoes from recycled plastic. Can you think of an ingenious use for something that we all throw away on a daily basis?



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