We love writing about clever innovations like upcycling banana peels, and this time we’re moving on to repurposing paper! As part of the London Design Festival last year, Andrew Simpson challenges our perception of junk mail as being just that — junk. By upcycling junk mail using his customizable paper press, Simpson secured his spot in their collection of sustainable design pieces.
The origin of the idea is that there is a constant flow of free cellulose coming to peoples’ homes. With this raw material on tap, I started to look for applications for it and settled on paper plates.
Upcycled paper plates aren’t the only thing Simpson’s press can produce though. Its interchangeable molds can create bowls, cups and coasters too. The process is quite simple as well; combining the junk paper with water, a pulp is made that can be compressed into your desired shape.
Paper plates and bowls are perfect for use at large gatherings and are on the typical shopping list for any BBQ or picnic, but their single-use nature feels wasteful. By upcycling paper plates out of junk mail, they can be made thicker and stronger than the material typically used in what you’d find at the grocery store and after use, you won’t feel bad about throwing them in the trash!
Since making a stronger material was a huge focus of the project, Simpson went through a number of iterations before settling on this one. “In the end, we worked out that the fully pulped worked better than shredded and that the strongest forms were created by applying the most pressure.”
Higher pressure meant that the water from the paper mixture was removed and the cellulose bound together better. It was the bowls that made the best use of the extra pressure; the folds became very dense and maintained shape much better than the plates.
Simpson is part of a larger collective of sustainable designers started in 2011, the supercyclers. Their mantra is to develop a sustainable future in the products they create and to transform perceptions of waste materials. To put it simply, they creatively take upcycling to the extreme.