When industries collide: upcycling connects Film with Design

July 25, 2016

Basic Design exists to change the way people think about reducing commercial waste and the company is thriving today by re-using, recycling (“upcycling”) throwaway material to create useful, attractive, in-demand consumer products.

We have dedicated our lives to improving environmental sustainability with a clear focus on design innovation and collaboration. Theunis is a graduate of Emily Carr University of Art and Design with a degree in Industrial Design. Jesi, too, is an ECU grad with a Bachelor’s Degree of Interaction Design. We are well traveled and well versed in the myriad challenges associated with sustainability goals.

We started our careers working in the Vancouver film industry, where we quickly became aware of the amount of waste generated by large-scale movie making operations. As a prime example, the film-industry routinely uses large rubber sheets to protect expensive equipment from water damage and these sheets are immediately sent to landfills after filming is complete. The sheets are made of EPDM (ethylene propylene diene terpolymer): a soft textured synthetic rubber with qualities very similar to leather – perfect upcycling material for application in consumer goods.

basic design Theunis
Basic Design Exhibit Stand

Basic Design leverages this enormous opportunity to turn volumes of waste material into valuable and unique second life products.

“Movie sets were throwing this stuff out”, says Theunis. “We simply asked if we could have it.”

The ability to see potential profit in industrial waste while reducing landfill deposits was the launching pad for Basic Design’s current success. Today, we design a wide variety of popular consumer items made from EPDM including handbags, wallets, phone sleeves, bus pass/business ‎card/passport holders, Ipad and notepad protective cases, and more.

We work with partners to enable manufacturing and selling locally and online. Our initial success lead to the creation of higher-end, one-of-a-kind furniture options giving us a bigger platform to share our artistic vision.

Today, our eye-catching furniture designs include custom shelving solutions, kitchen island counter tops, longtables, table legs, exhibit stands, chairs and benches – each and every beautiful item created from salvaged material.

Basic Design Minimalist Wallet

There remain numerous challenges trying to source, and then upcycle, certain materials.

“The process of de-constructing sometimes requires a creative approach” says Theunis. “Like, how do you turn a gym floor into a table? Can the raw wood be extracted from the many layers, and de-nailed effectively? These are questions we run into on a daily basis.”

Some waste products and materials are simply not appropriate for re-use. Even if the materials are free to collect, labour costs to separate materials from their original form can be cost prohibitive. It takes patience to find what you’re looking for in terms of quality and quantity of materials.

The secret to Basic Design’s ongoing success is rooted firmly in collaboration.

We work with innovative thinkers, sustainability experts and enthusiastic organizations which benefits our business. A classic example is our relationship with MakerLabs, a shared design studio where we enjoy access to state-of-the-art equipment including woodworking tools, 3D printers, CNC machines, laser cutters, and industrial sewing machines. All the equipment is available for design and testing purposes.

Collaborating with MakerLabs allows Basic Design to prototype our design ideas without investing in expensive machinery and technology; but most importantly, MakerLabs provides us access to people with knowledge, experience, and expertise.

For example, Basic Design entered the LAMP (‘Lighting Architecture Movement Project) international design competition. We created a solar lamp with recycled pop bottles and proudly won the ‘People’s Choice Award’.  True to our philosophy of collaboration, Basic Design’s success was made possible with the help of resident electricians and architects at MakerLabs.

“Our long term vision is to build a larger system where we can intercept valuable waste directly from industries and process it at a centralized location, or ‘The Trash Lab‘.”

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