Street furniture made of recycled plastic is the latest borderline of ecological design that match the utility of these innovative infrastructures with the use of completely eco-compatible and reusable material in a circular economy.
There are many uses of recycled plastic, not the least is the application of this innovative technology to street furniture. In fact, as well as being an optimal choice in terms of environmental sustainability, this material is resistant to atmospheric agents, mould and fungus and also eliminates the costs of maintenance traditional materials such as iron and wood.
An interesting project in the field of urban design was born in the Netherlands and is called "Print your city". The research and design studio, The new raw, in Rotterdam, has actually studied a way to transform plastic waste into benches using 3D printing and at the same time involving citizens. Dutch citizens, in fact, will be able to bring their household plastic waste to the laboratory and design their own personalized street furniture directly in the place. This project seeks to raise public awareness of the importance of plastic recycling by learning the recycling process and by designing products for their neighborhoods , thus also contributing to a circular economy.
This initiative was also implemented in Thessaloniki, Greece, where the first prototypes were printed in the summer of 2018 and placed in Nea Paralia, the main seafront street. A particular aspect of the project in Thessaloniki is the possibility for citizens to decide where place the bench and select extra functions to be included in it, such as the bicycle rack or the bench for gym exercises. Since that summer, the project has been so successful that more than 3000 designs were received at the workshop through the initiative's website and the Greek city decided to make available a new area for the positioning of street furniture, recycling four additional tons of plastic waste.
In Italy, although this initiative does not exist yet, there are still other urban furniture projects to support the circular economy such as children's playgrounds. It is the creation of these structures, with material made from recycled plastic that is four times more resistant than wood to wind and rain, and requires little maintenance.
PlasticLab, a start-up born in Crotone, decided to make a business out of it and even use abandoned plastic in parks and other green areas. In collaboration with Idea Plast, a company specializing in the plastic sector in Lainate, PlasticLab's mission is to offer to the market services that aim at the processing of plastics from separate waste collection on site and thus give to plastic a "second life" with the creation of urban furniture, playground structures, interior furnishings, flooring, which can become a business for the whole South Italy.