Innovation That Matters

Kim melted the masks to create multi-coloured three-legged stools in hard, durable plastic | Photo source Haneul Kim

Furniture made from used PPE

Architecture & Design

A Korean art student has devised a way to recycle used face masks into sturdy and colourful furniture

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Spotted: On top of the human and economic devastation, the coronavirus pandemic has also brought an enormous environmental problem, as an estimated 129 billion plastic face masks and 65 billion plastic gloves are discarded – every month. Korean designer Haneul Kim is drawing attention to this problem with a project to upcycle PPE into plastic furniture.

Kim set up a mask collection box at the Kaywon University of Art and Design in Uiwang City, where he is a student. He also collected more than a tonne of defective masks from a local PPE manufacturer. To reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission, Kim kept the masks in storage for a minimum of four days before removing the elastic bands and wires.

Kim next placed the white, pink, blue, and black masks in a mould and, using a heat gun, he melted the masks at temperatures over 300 degrees Celsius (570 degrees Fahrenheit). The result? Multi-coloured three-legged stools in hard, durable plastic.

Kim has pointed out that the problem of plastic waste is increasing year-on-year, and the pandemic has made this problem worse. While the stools will not solve this problem, they may encourage PPE companies and designers to think creatively about how to tackle the problem. Kim hopes that “these chairs evoke the seriousness of environmental pollution and inspire people to think about solving the problem.” 

The fight against plastic is now taking on a new urgency. According to the Ocean Conservancy, 150 million tons of plastic are already in the oceans, with more than 300 million tons of plastic produced annually. Luckily, there is no shortage of ideas for reducing and reusing plastics. Just recently, Springwise has covered innovations such as an app that tracks individual plastic use and a compostable marker pen – and we are certain the new year will bring many more.

Written By: Lisa Magloff



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