Designer’ sofas Vanderlande showcase circular opportunities

As a socially responsible organisation, Vanderlande is continually exploring innovative ways to integrate sustainable practices into its business models. Such opportunities can sometimes present themselves in the most surprising of places and the reimagining of our depreciated baggage carriers proved to be a perfect example of this.

A large yellow baggage carrier was used at the 2016 sustainable innovation trade show in Amsterdam and due to be discarded. At the exhibition, Vanderlande representatives met Tessa van der Meer. Tessa, along with office designer Desko – co-owner of We Beat the Mountain – who arranged for the carrier to be refashioned into a striking, contemporary sofa by the FLEX/design consultancy firm.

From prototype to production

Our baggage carrier formed the seating area, which was placed on salvaged spruce wood and finished with cushions produced from reclaimed yarn. The first two sofas developed for Vanderlande are now on display at Schiphol Airport, which received them as a gift for their centenary celebrations. Vancouver Airport also received one as a gift. These initial prototypes naturally incurred a high production cost. However, knowing that we wanted to produce more, we worked with We Beat the Mountain to develop solutions to overcome this challenge.

The bright yellow sofas can now be seen all over the world, and there are ambitions to produce more: “We estimate that there are approximately 500 baggage carriers available today that could be used as materials for sofas,” says Vanderlande Lead Engineer Sustainability Cor Goelema. “While there is a cost involved in reclaiming these items, we also feel an increasing sense of responsibility for the products we create and the materials which are left after their ‘first life’ is over.”

Having shown what can be achieved by aligning the right people and companies to ensure maximum use and life from raw materials, the future growth and prosperity of the project does not rest with Vanderlande in isolation. The company is now set to hand over this sofa venture to an organisation that has its core business in providing sustainable and innovative furniture for an affordable price.

Circular economy

Vanderlande hopes that the knowledge gained from creating these sofas will stimulate further discussion and innovation to help the company further on its journey towards the ‘circular economy’.

Businesses and consumers are increasingly being urged to move away from the traditional linear economy of make, take and dispose. While investing in smarter solutions for waste and finding ways to reuse raw material is currently limited – and also governed by various regulations – it is increasingly becoming an ethical issue for many companies.

“What we have seen from the circular sofa project is an opportunity to take responsibility and ensure that our materials last longer,” adds Cor. “The products we create are essentially a temporary storage space for a material. At the end of their initial service life, if we can recover and regenerate the raw materials, then they are not being incinerated or going to landfill. To do this, it will be essential to look outside of our own lines of business, because that expands the range of possible solutions.”

Material passports

Deciding not to immediately write off waste and create a wider circular economy within the business will be challenging. However, by taking this concept into consideration right from the primary design phase, some hurdles can be overcome.

With this in mind, Cor has been developing ‘material passports’. These will be connected to each sofa and facilitate the further recycling of the raw materials at the point at which the sofa is no longer serviceable.

“Material passports list what the sofa is composed of,” he says. “If people want to dispose of the sofa in ten years’ time, then this information could avoid it being incinerated and keep the material viable for as long as possible. This information will be especially relevant, for example, if the sofa is sold to private individuals and Vanderlande has lost track of the owner.”

This concept could also be applied across future Vanderlande products as an enabler to growing our circular economy. Material passports, as well as being more transparent about our waste resources, could provide a vital link between supply and demand.

Create a future for the circular sofas

  • The development of circular sofas has, until now, been a side-line for Vanderlande. Since we still care a great deal about this project, we would like to get in touch with companies that have sustainability and innovation at their heart and specialise in furniture solutions.
  • If you know of anyone that might be interested in discussing the possibilities with us, with a view to us handing over this exciting sofa project, please mail to info@vanderlande.com and we will get in touch with you as soon as possible.
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