Smile Plastics - Inspirational designs made of recycled plastics

Designers and architects worldwide are inspired by the innovative recycling materials from Smile Plastics

An interview with Adam Fairweather & Rosalie McMillan

smile plastic
Selfridges Material World, Photo by Andrew Meredith

Author: House of Eden

Smile Plastics aims to create art and design from waste recycling , using an innovative technology, the company produces handcrafted and tailor-made materials for the design and construction industry. The result are artistic panels that are used in applications all over the world. An inspiration in terms of sustainability and recycling.

The designer duo Adam Fairweather and Rosalie McMillan run the material design and manufacturing house Smile Plastics. In an interview with Haus von Eden, they talk about their mission to change people's perception around waste via innovation.

Smile Plastic

The designer duo Adam Fairweather and Rosalie McMillan

Recycled materials without compromising on design and quality

The two designers share a passion for materials and sustainability, especially for the development of innovative recycling materials. That's why they took over Smile Plastics from the original founder before it's shut down. They now create inspirational products made of recycled materials, combining handcraft, technology and storytelling.

"There is a lot of creativity involved in choosing and preparing different waste streams in order to achieve our materials designs. It was the process itself as well as the outcome that inspired us. We also really felt, as designers ourselves, that there was a need for sustainable materials on the market, that do not compromise on quality or good design", the designer duo explains.

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Products from Smile Plastics tell a story about their origins

First, the waste materials are explored for their intrinsic value and potential in a new life. To do this, the designers consider the waste materials, both in terms of quality, colors, textures and patterns, as well as in combination with other materials. Before the panels are created for the architecture and designer community, first experimental samples are produced on a small scale.

Resulting in modern, handmade and unique materials. The speckled pattern reminds of marble, slate, wood, water, concrete, multi-colored sponge or terrazzo. After the testing phase, these are produced in large-scale decorative panels .

"We often like to keep distinct characteristics of the plastics' original life in their new life to build the narrative of the materials themselves. This takes shape as flecks of foil from the original yoghurt pot lids or text and barcodes from plastic packaging, which draw us in and help us understand those materials' provenance", the designers say.

Smile Plastic

Photo by Kristy Noble

Pushing the boundaries of aesthetic possibilities via innovation

The company wants to push the boundaries of aesthetic possibilities. Processing plastic waste, that traditionally ends up in landfills or is incinerated, is in fact challenging. The designers are constantly working on different forms of procurement, processing and production of plastic waste in order to be able to create different material aesthetics.

"We are investing a lot of time in improving the technical properties of our materials to enhance their durability and applicability in wider ranging environments. Smile brings constant challenges, which keeps us all on our toes. Covid is a massive challenge for all at the moment. Still, beyond that, our current challenges revolve more around scaling up our production to make larger sized panels with quicker turnarounds", Adam and Rosalie say.

Creativity without limits: Panels made of CDs and rubber boots

The waste is typically sourced locally through a number of brokers and disposal companies. The plastics are mostly post-industrial or commercial plastic waste. These come from the food and cosmetics industry as well as medical packaging.

"We also work on limited editions and custom materials from far more diverse sources from CDs and wellies to Christmas decorations. The strict procedures for procurement, processing and quality control limit the likelihood of pollutants entering the environment. In addition, very low temperatures are used, which maintains the integrity of the polymers even with very little polymer degradation."

The strict procedures for procurement, processing and quality control limit the likelihood of pollutants entering the environment. In addition, very low temperatures are used, which maintains the integrity of the polymers even with very little polymer degradation.

Smile Plastic

Source & Copyright by Smile Plastic

Giving an alternative to natural materials

"Given the handcrafted nature of our materials and the amount of time that goes into making them, our materials are excellent value. Of course they will never compete in price to MDF but compared to other natural and man-made decorative materials our panels will often win the hearts and minds of our customers. We love that the material is limitless and is suitable for large or small projects, from retail, interior, hospitality to a product", Adam and Rosalie say.

We love that the material is limitless and is suitable for large or small projects, from retail, interior, hospitality to a product."

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Recycling alone cannot solve the waste problem

Like with any significant global challenge, the solutions for the waste problem are complex and multifaceted. They need to be approached from different angles and on different levels:

"When it comes to the waste problem, recycling is just one part of the solution. Ultimately, we need to change our industrial and social ecosystems, to design in a way that limits the amount of waste that gets produced in the first place. We need to design products that last and that can easily be repaired, reused, and renewed before they end up being recycled in a well-managed system", Adam and Rosalie explain.

Only that could prevent waste from finding its way into natural environments such as the oceans. In addition, we must all start to appreciate the precious and limited resources around us much more in order to reduce our consumption and rethink our throwaway culture.

"Right now, we are a small team with a micro-factory in South Wales, and we ship our materials all over the world. We're looking to expand over the next few years by creating a distributed network of micro-factories worldwide to take local waste and transform it into beautiful materials for local markets globally, putting an end to plastics waste."

Find out more about Smile Plastics here 

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