Q&A: Guiltless Design with Plastics

Q&A: Guiltless Design with Plastics

As designers become aware of the need for more sustainable methods and materials, recycled plastic is working its way into their repertory of ingredients. The second edition of the RO Guiltless Plastics Prize, for which designers can apply until February 22, 2020, pushes them to consider how to make objects from recycled materials. The prize is an initiative of Rossana Orlandi, founder and curator of the Galleria Rossana Orlandi in Milan.

For the first edition of the RO Guiltless Plastics Prize in 2019, Orlandi invited world-renowned designers sensitive to the role of their work in waste reduction, including Italian designer Enrico Marone Cinzano, to create a unique furniture piece in honor of the plastics prize. ArchiExpo e-Magazine recently spoke with Marone Cinzano about the importance of reusing plastic and the TRONCO table, his contribution to the RO Plastics Masterpieces 2019.

ArchiExpo e-Magazine: How long have you been working with sustainable design?

Enrico Marone Cinzano: I’ve been working in sustainability for over 20 years. First I had a fashion label, then I started working with furniture and interiors. For over 10 years, I’ve been working with Rossana Orlandi and we’ve been having this conversation about sustainable design since the very beginning. 

ArchiExpo e-Magazine: How did you combine plastic and more natural elements in the TRONCO table?

Enrico Marone Cinzano: TRONCO was an interesting project.  It’s burnt wood, and burnt wood becomes fossilized and then turns into organic material which turns into oil, and oil becomes plastic. So I feel that in that one piece, combining wood and recycled plastic, you have the whole story. 

ArchiExpo e-Magazine: How can you compare wood and plastic in terms of sustainable design?

Enrico Marone Cinzano: Wood has a circular product cycle, while plastics take a long time, and sometimes forever, to degrade. It’s very important we include plastic when we talk about sustainability because it’s all-pervasive. There’s an incredible amount of plastic-based refuse and there are a lot of interesting companies now that collect that leftover material and work it into a new product. 

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Photo credit Davide Caterino

ArchiExpo e-Magazine: Do you think about how your product will age or be recycled in the future?

Enrico Marone Cinzano: I use mono-materials. I always try not to interlay a material with too many other things because then it becomes impossible to reuse it. I try to use each material individually, and if I have to conjoin material, I try to ensure that they can be taken apart easily. 

ArchiExpo e-Magazine: What made you want to start working with sustainable design 20 years ago?

Enrico Marone Cinzano: I worked on a small project in the clothing industry and we were using recycled jerseys. When I started thinking about it and looking at the numbers in terms of how much product the industry is churning out and how much goes to landfills unused, I realized that we were heading for trouble. I was a young kid, and I wanted to have a better world. 

ArchiExpo e-Magazine: Do you feel the same optimism now?

Enrico Marone Cinzano: I feel that with a mix of human ingenuity, good intentions and technology, we could definitely succeed. There is enough out there for everybody. It’s a question of how we manage it and hopefully, we’ll be smart enough to make the right decisions. I think people like Rossana Orlandi can interject in the conversation about design the possibility for design to be both cool and sustainable. It really helps bring awareness to the issue.

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