In dialogue with the founders of EcoBirdy: Recycling discarded plastic toys into colorful designer furniture for kids
Innovation meets design - Vanessa Yuan and Joris Vanbriel started their careers 10 years ago in the design industry in Milan, where they worked in different areas of design.
In 2008, they founded their own design studio "Vanbriel Yuan bvba" in Antwerp and run their own design brand ecoBirdy since 2016. EcoBirdy offers designer furniture which is made from recycled, i.e. discarded, plastic toys for children. For this, the designer duo has developed a multi-award winning innovative process under years of research.
In addition, they designed a picture book and a school program: The fairy tale book "A Journey into a New Life" was designed to introduce children to the topic of the circular economy and to bring them closer to the environmental problem. The main purpose is to sensitize the next generation early on for the recycling and reuse of the material.
We talked to the designers about vision and challenges:
1. What was your motivation to start ecoBirdy? Why create something new when there are so many good designs? We considered what can we offer to respond to the current needs and problems of today's world, beyond aesthetics and functionality. The debut collection from ecoBirdy is the result of two years of intensive research and studies on plastics, plastic toys and their recycling. It was also very exciting for us to combine our knowledge with the applied technologies of different industries.
2. The biggest challenge of your brand was? To create design pieces that are made of recycled materials but are still considered as beautiful and high quality products. The technical development was also very difficult. However, the most difficult thing was to change people's perceptions and convince them that waste material can be turned into a design object. For example, the beauty of the "speckled" look that reveals the recycled parts of old plastic toys.
Today, the news is full of environmental problems and the trend is increasingly leaning towards organic products. Unfortunately, there is also a lot of "Greenwashing". Thus, our new challenge is to label our truly sustainable products in terms of quality and longevity.
3. What are you proud of? Our chair Charlie, which is designed for children from 18 months to 7 years. In addition to other technical development issues that we have already mentioned, creating a baby chair that is truly ergonomic and meets all safety requirements was a big challenge.
"We are extremely pleased to hear that even small children can safely climb on the chair, that it is comfortable to use and that children love it." Both parents and children find the chair Charlie safe, stable, reliable and inspiring, this feedback makes us very proud. "
4. You believe in? What is the good and the right thing. We strive to act socially and environmentally conscious. Fair business practices are therefore an integral part of our ethos. We translate these values into every step of our business. To be honest, though, this is not always the fastest and easiest way.
5. What is your vision for the future? Continue to research materials and deepen relationships with our partners. We look forward to working with like-minded international brands to make a bigger impact together. In our opinion, climate change and other global environmental issues are not being resolved by a change in a single industry. It therefore requires a completely new methodology for the entire supply chain and throughout the economic system.
That's why ecoBirdy does not only present a new product, but also research and new solutions. We want to be a role model for the application of the circular economy and at the same time a source of inspiration for it. "Circular design" generates a completely different approach to product development. A concept must go beyond the point of use, functionality and style. The environment must also be taken into account and a balance must be established between all these aspects.