Renovating Resources

Many plastic bottles are quickly consumed and thrown away; yet when viewed from a design perspective, Alvaro Catalán de Ocón discovered that PET bottles had the potential to be transformed into a functional product.

Designing for re-use – PET Lamps by Alvaro Catalán de Ocón.

It is not known how much plastic waste ends up in our oceans but a recent study by the University of Georgia estimates that 275 million metric tons of plastic waste was generated in 2010 by 192 coastal countries.

Spanish designer Alvaro Catalán de Ocón.

“We believe in reuse as the counterpoint to recycling” Spanish designer Alvaro Catalán de Ocón.

Inspired design

This global problem caught the eye of Spanish designer Alvaro Catalán de Ocón, and he came up with an aesthetic yet functional design to raise awareness about the detrimental effect plastic bottles have on our ecosystem.

The concept behind PET Lamps was to use plastic bottles with a sense of longevity. Many plastic bottles are quickly consumed and thrown away; yet when viewed from a design perspective, Alvaro Catalán de Ocón discovered that PET bottles had the potential to be transformed into a functional product. Started in 2011, PET Lamps is a project that fuses the modern with the traditional.

Alvaro Catalán de Ocón discovered that PET bottles had the potential to be transformed into a functional product. His PET Lamps are now also displayed around the word in galleries and art spaces.

A design by a local artisan in Ethiopia.

A design by a local artisan in Ethiopia.

PET stands for polyethylene terephthalate and it is commonly used in drink bottles. Inspired by the bamboo stirrers used in traditional Japanese tea ceremonies, PET Lamps are made of PET bottles with lamp shades weaved by local artisans in Chile, Colombia and Ethiopia using local techniques of basket making and dyeing.

To match the individual design of the weaves, a vibrant coloured cable is used for lamps made by artisans in Colombia and Ethiopia while a subtle cardboard wrapped cable is used for the lamp designs by artisans in Chile.

The art of weaving

Must like how each plastic bottle is marked with a unique product number, each PET Lamp is distinctive and tells a story of a local community.

The tradition and techniques of basket weaving is passed from mother and daughter in Ethiopia.

The tradition and techniques of basket weaving is passed from mother and daughter in Ethiopia.

In Ethiopia, the organisation Salem’s Ethiopia works with PET Lamps to ensure the lamps reflect the important role baskets play in local culture and society. Generally crafted by women, the basket designs come from a memory of skills and patterns passed down through generations from mother to daughter. These designs are made using grasses and palm leaves colourfully dyed with natural materials.

Mixing this traditional craft with the modern PET bottles, PET Lamps also promotes these traditional cultures and artisans internationally. It is an

“opportunity to expand our techniques further beyond the normal uses we have in weaving palm fibres and it allows us to continue offering word to the artisans. Besides this PET Lamps helps bring awareness of the use and recycling of plastic bottles, a problem that has just begun to come to light in Ethiopia” Almaz G. Egiziabher, Manager at Salem’s Ethiopia

A note about recycling plastic bottles in Australia

Australians spend over $500 million on bottled water every year. Almost 90% of the marine debris found in Sydney beaches is plastic, mainly bottles, caps and straws; and Clean Up Australia reported that in 2010, one in ten items found on Clean Up Australia day were related to plastic drinking bottles.

The best way to help reduce the amount of plastic bottles in our landfill is by looking at ways to not purchase them. Reusable bottles save you money, and are a great way to carry water and other drinks. For example, carry your own fruit-infused water for an extra kick!

Plastic items are generally marked with a symbol and number to show what type of plastic it is. It is important to note that not all plastic can be recycled through the kerbside collection. Start by checking this guide from Zero Waste SA for a quick overview. For specific information, check with your local council.

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Susan Kim

Susan Kim

With a background in public communications and international studies, Susan believes in creating positive change through effective and integrated communications. She is passionate about using creativity to solve problems and to empower others and is currently traveling n New York

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