Two Belgian designers recycle toys to make kid’s furniture

Innovation is the watchword for ecoBirdy – it not only collects toys to make them into kid's furniture but also teaches kids about the circular economy.

"Remind consumers about the importance of making the most of our precious, but limited, resources."

The toy industry is up there with the highest users of plastic. It was one of the conclusions in a report published in 2014 by the United Nations Environment Program. In Belgium, for example, 90% of the most popular kid’s toys are made from plastic: for example a toy kitchen contains 5.6 kg – its entire weight!
However, kids grow fast and their interests change even faster: toys are often thrown away after only six months. If they aren’t recycled, they end up in landfills or incinerators.
To avoid losing all that material, the solution is to recycle plastic toys. That’s what Vanessa Yuan and Joris Vanbriel believe. In 2017, these two Belgian designers launched ecoBirdy, a responsible kid’s furniture brand.
Of course the collection includes tables and chairs, along with a rhinoceros lamp and a storage unit in the shape of a kiwi (listed as a vulnerable species). So what do they have in common? They’re all made from recycled plastic toys.
 

Advanced sorting technologies

The company installed containers in Belgian schools to collect the material needed to make the furniture. Students are encouraged to drop off their broken or unused plastic toys there.
They are then sent to a workshop that employs people with disabilities, where they are manually sorted to ensure that they don’t contain undesirable materials such as textiles, batteries, metal parts, etc.
That done they’re off to a recycling center to be sorted again, this time automatically, on the basis of their composition and color. After being shredded and washed before being used to make furniture.
It is usual for virgin plastic to be added after the recycling process, but with this accurate automated sorting it’s not necessary. And Vanessa Yuan and Joris Vanbriel also choose to leave evidence of the furniture's past by avoiding the addition of dyes, which can sometimes be a health hazard.
The objects have a speckled appearance that shows off the bright colors of the different toys used to make them. "We wanted to remind consumers about the importance of making the most of our precious, but limited, resources," they say on their website. And yet another advantage is that all their furniture is fully recyclable!
 

Start with the kids

In parallel to their mission of collecting and recycling toys, ecoBirdy introduces Belgian students to ecology during classroom workshops. The brand has produced a story book that teaches young children about the harmful consequences of plastic waste on the planet. They also discover how important it is to give plastic objects a second life.
The workshop leaders then present a chair designed by ecoBirdy. "They realize that their toys have been turned into beautiful products that they can use again," enthuses Joris Vanbriel.
It offers a concrete experience of the principle of the circular economy. And is a way of encouraging tomorrow’s adults to respect the environment.
 

CREDITS: Main picture © EcoBirdy

 

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