Upcycling waste material is even more efficient than recycling.

While recycling is good, upcycling is even better. In the latter the waste material is converted into something more useful than the original product. This was the thinking behind Dan Godlstein’s re-ply chair, the seat of which is made out of used cardboard from old boxes.


Cardboard may not strike you as a very hardy, robust material but when built in layers it can become incredibly durable. Goldstein, a designer and teacher of design in San Francisco, says,  “A lot of people sit in the chair and they are surprised by how rigid it is. It’s just four layers of basic, heavy duty cardboard from any type of box and once you’ve laminated it over a mould it just kind of sticks in place. It has a little bit of flex but it really is quite strong.”

The cardboard chair is made from old boxes.

Goldstein has been building prototypes of this chair for over six years now and they have survived constant use in his house. He says, “As long as you don’t leave them in the rain they will last. I have IKEA furniture that is de-laminating and these are still fine.”

It’s just four layers of basic, heavy duty cardboard from any type of box and once you’ve laminated it over a mould it just kind of sticks in place

In fact, one of Goldstein’s aims is to change the way we think about cardboard. As the material is generally used for disposable products such as boxes and containers, we perceive the material as having a very short life span. Goldstein wants to change this perception. “One of the aims is to make cardboard into something permanent. It is always just used in boxes that we toss away but it doesn’t have to be that way. That is one thing I like about the steel frame base, it puts it in the context of something durable and permanent.”

Crowd funding

Goldstein is currently raising money on the crowd-funding platform Kickstarter in order to put the chair into production on a larger scale. With only a few days to go before the fundraising ends he has nearly doubled his target, raising over $18,000.

Goldstein believes crowd-funding platforms like Kicktarter give individuals the chance to compete with the big corporations. He says, “It allows an individual to get capital to do larger projects. Where a large company can pay for tooling, moulds and the bulk purchase of materials, an individual has traditionally not been able to do this.”

Working out the design of the base.

Another aspect of Kickstarter that Goldstein likes is the way the designer and consumer have a direct relationship.

“I find myself buying things on Kickstarter a lot because it really connects you to the designers and the builders. That connection is lost in our day-to-day life. You go to a store and buy something and you have no idea who designed it or how it was built. Knowing these things embeds value into the products in our lives.”

Refining the design

Goldstein intends to put the money raised from Kickstarter into refining the design, which will be needed to put the chair into mass production. “The process of wrapping the cardboard around the edges of the chair is probably one of the most labour intensive parts. A new type of edge treatment is needed because it is simply not feasible to spend a day doing that with every single chair, at least at the price they are being sold at…but the basic chair, the major dimensions and the metal frame will all stay the same, it is just the little details that need refining.”

If you are interested in the project or want to back his work go to the re-ply chair page on Kickstarter before the fundraising ends.


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