The versatile, malleable, and durable material is made from plastic recovered from post-industrial and post-consumer deposits
Spotted: According to a group of students behind an innovative recycled plastic material, recycling plastic into disposable items like bottles only delays the problem of plastic pollution. Every time a plastic bottle is recycled it degrades, and manufacturers compensate by adding a proportion of virgin plastic to maintain product quality. Moreover, recycling systems are far from perfectly efficient so some plastic is lost each cycle.
In 2016, the four students, who were studying at the National School of Architecture in Versailles, were tasked with creating a new school campus in Kenya. Their brief was to use renewable materials sourced from the local area around Versailles. Their brainwave? Plastic waste, harvested from nearby bins, can be heated and compressed to create a material strong enough to be used for construction. The quartet realised that this material offered both a permanent solution to plastic waste and an alternative to environmentally damaging cement.
Fast forward to today and the student project has become a company that produces the plastic material—known as ‘Le Pavé’—commercially. The company’s website lists wall coverings, countertops, and furniture as the material’s main applications.
Produced in plates, Le Pavé can be sawn, drilled, sanded, and thermoformed to the required shape. It is also fully recyclable, meaning that it can be reused indefinitely. At the end of their life, the plates are crushed in the company’s factory and reintegrated into a new project.
The material is currently available in three different finishes. The first is a pure, clean white plank made mostly from plastic used in the cosmetics industry. A second, mineral-looking material consists of a white base sprinkled with black crushed plastic sourced from electrical sheaths and the automotive industry. The third finish has a ‘flake’ effect achieved by sprinkling coloured plastics straight from the recycling bin onto the same white base.
Plastics were orignally designed to last, and Le Pavé is not the only innovation to recognise their potential for construction. Springwise has previously spotted ByFusion, another company using plastic to make construction blocks. Other plastic waste innovations include using non-recyclable plastic as an additive to asphalt, and a carbon capture system that utilises waste plastic.
Written By: Katrina Lane