While zero-waste pioneer Lauren Singer lives a trash-free existence, billions more of us are littering the planet with our waste. Architect Arthur Huang's Miniwiz design company is tackling that problem, by seeking to develop products built primarily from trash.
We last looked in on Miniwiz in 2012, and were pleased to see they're still going strong. Operating under the motto "It's wise to minimize," the company has continued to practice their "urban mining"—that's trawling through their home city of Taipei for waste—and turning trash into cash with products like the following:
Miniwiz's RE-view is a pair of sunglasses made from a polymer-like material created by combining agricultural waste (fibers made from rice husks) with recycled CDs and DVDs. Even the case it comes with, which resembles a McDonald's apple pie package, is made from 100% recycled polypropylene. In a nice ergonomic touch, the form factor of the case is meant to be compressed flat and tucked into a pocket when the glasses are on your face, and can be "popped" back into shape when it's needed again.
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Their Eco-Morph Shelf System isn't 100% made from trash, but uses a surprising combination of materials to create a modular shelving system that the end user can assemble themselves. The heart of the system is a series of extruded connectors made from recycled aluminum; into these connectors the end user slides panels made from recycled CDs and DVDs, as with the sunglasses, and these panels can be edged or faced with FSC-certified Teak or Mahogany veneers for a warmer look. LED lighting can be integrated between the connectors.
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Miniwiz has developed proprietary techniques for reprocessing recycled materials, enabling them to make the RE-view sunglasses softer and more flexible than a competitor could using the same base material of recycled CDs and DVDs. These guys have the science down. Where they could use a little help is in their marketing. For example, take a look at their Re-Wine Classic product:
While it's admirable that the product is made from 100% recyclable items—recycled thermoplastics and rice husk fibers—this one had me scratching my head a bit; is there a demand for a product used to shuttle single wine bottles from one location to another? It seems to me this would have the greatest impact if they could replace the wine boxes the vineyards use for shipping, but that might be a bridge too far in terms of packaging efficiency and palletization.
Still, Miniwiz is an innovative company with a bold mission, and we'd all be better off if there were more companies like them. The World Economic Forum apparently agrees: This month the WEF gave Miniwiz their 2015 Technology Pioneer Award.