PET bottles could be a great symbol of the speed of our society. They have a very short lifespan, as we are more interested in what’s inside them, tossing the bottles away after consuming the contents. Designers do their best to make the object valid over the long term as they look for a creative way to transform it into a functional and desirable product for the market after its initial intended use.
Spanish product designer Alvaro Catalán de Ocón has created his PET Lamp project back in 2011, when he traveled South America and took part in a project led by Hélène le Drogou, psychologist and activist who was concerned with the plastic waste contaminating the Colombian Amazon.
Since then, he and his team has been empowering regional communities to rethink plastic bottles in a new way. The designer has taken the project all over the globe, working with incredible communities and artisans in Colombia, Chile, Ethiopia, Japan, Australia, Thailand, and Ghana to build up eight completely unique collections.
During the design process, the artisans use the surface of the bottle as the wrap on which they weave. Discarded plastic bottles are adapted by chopping off their bottoms. Then craftsmen cut the sides into thin strips, while the original structural form of the bottle top remains in place, in which to join the electrical components to the lamp shade. The PET strips are then woven with the wicker to form lamps shades, mixing the coloured plastic with natural fibres.
Not only the initiative addresses the problem of plastic waste, it also gives locals a means of sustaining themselves economically as well as enables them to share their knowledge with the world.
Dutch product design studio David Graas has found a bespoke way to reinterpret the familiar PET bottle in unfamiliar ways without reshaping the vessel. His ‘Screw You’ collection is a collection of products that make clever use of the universal bottle screw tops.
The ‘Screw You Vase,’ for instance, comprises a system of 3D printed screw ops linked together to transform 12 0,5 l single use PET bottles into a beautiful vase that is made to last. The vessel rests on the three centre bottles, which need to be the exact same height in order for it to stand upright.
The designer recommends to first fill all the bottles with water half full and then screw them into the connector one by one.
Varied combinations of PET bottles complete the design.
Franco-Japanese artist Yusuké Y. Offhause also reimagines the PET bottles as vessels for flowers but he does that in a drastically different way. For his Fuwa Fuwa series, he combined the transparent plastic with heterogeneous material that looks like oxidized iron or something that you see at archeological digs or underwater remains.
While retaining the original shape of the bottle, the designer replaced part of the transparent plastic with noble materials, glass, transparent resin or ceramic, highlighting the missing parts with these other elements.
These organic vessels can then be used as sake bottles, fragrance diffusers, or just as decorations. Inspired by archeological pieces exhibited in different museums, they look both futuristic and archaic as if the plastic bottles had been preserved or crystallized with glass.