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Three innovations that turn plastic waste into a new resource


In 2015, 300 million tonnes of plastic waste was generated. How can this waste be transformed into a resource? An illustration with three examples of everyday products made of recycled plastic.

© Leo-Paul Ridet / SUEZ
© Leo-Paul Ridet / SUEZ

Ecoalf: clothes made of waste plastic from the sea

Every year, 13 million tonnes of plastic ends up in our oceans. If this carries on, by 2050 there could be more plastic than fish in the sea! The Spanish start-up Ecoalf, founded by Javier Goyeneche, is looking into ways of making lines of clothing from these plastic waste. The company founded in 2012 is working with port authorities in the Mediterranean to recover plastic waste collected at sea by fishing boats. Bottles, fishing nets and even old tyres are transformed into materials that can be used to make clothes, trainers or accessories. Today, Ecoalf works with 37 ports in Spain and is expanding its activity to other countries. Ecoalf’s Upcycling The Oceans (UTO) foundation has entered a partnership with the Thai government to clean up the ocean floor around five islands in the south of the country. The company claims that more than 70 million plastic bottles and 60 tonnes of fishing nets have already be reused.


ecoBirdy:  children’s furniture made from recycled toys

Most toys are made of plastic and are used for only a very short time. A fact that prompted Vanessa Yuan and Joris Vanbriel, two designers from Antwerp, Belgium, to set up ecoBirdy, a company that makes furniture for children from recycled toys. After 2 years spent surveying the market and looking for partners, ecoBirdy produced its first products made 100% from recycled plastic in January 2018. The chairs, tables and lamps are guaranteed pigment-, resin- and hazardous chemicals-free. With the support of the European COSME* programme, the Belgian company has also developed an educational programme to make children more aware of the issues of plastic waste and recycling.

* the COSME programme (Competitiveness of Enterprises and SMEs) aims to step up the EU’s support for small and medium-sized enterprises in their development phase.

VolkerWessels: roads made of recycled plastic

PlasticRoad is a ground covering developed by the Dutch company VolkerWessels . Designed as an alternative to asphalt, PlasticRoad takes the form of prefabricated interlocking modules made exclusively from plastic waste. PlasticRoad is capable of withstanding extreme temperatures (-40°C to +80°C) and is supposed to have a lifespan three times longer than that of conventional road surfaces. What’s more, the space underneath the modules can accommodate cables and pipes to evacuate surface water. On 11 September, cyclists in the Dutch town of Zwolle were able to enjoy a ride on a 30-metre pilot stretch of PlasticRoad, representing the equivalent of 218,000 plastic beakers. A second pilot project will soon be launched in Giethoorn.

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