Case Study / Green Genius

Green Genius: recycled plastics become an amazing multi-use surface product

Green Genius - sustainable living and design ideas at The Unexpected ChicThere are lots of recycled products out there, but this one takes the cake for me as far as ingenuity and eye-catching uniqueness factor. Smile plastics has revolutionized the recycled materials field by using more stringent sorting procedures to create an amazing array of colours and visual variety in their products.

The material is remarkably flexible in its properties, in that it can be milled, drilled, formed, moulded, sawed, fastened and finished, and are heat/water resistant, odour-free, most are customizable and 100% recycled. Also, every ton of plastics that the company recycles saves on average about 1.5 tons of CO2! WOW!

The original range in 1994 used bottles for shampoo, detergent or milk that were collected, sorted, flaked and thoroughly washed to remove any remaining contaminants. Their unique process then compresses the ‘multi-coloured corn-flakes’ into sheets with heat and pressure, which retains the colours of the original bottles.

Since then the company has launched products made from a wide variety of materials such as crushed CDs, plastic water bottles, banknotes, plumbing tubes, food containers, mobile phones, wellies and scrap from their own factory. The cool thing is each material retains some of its features and can be recognizable! The process can be varied so that the sizes of the pieces used can either look like huge smudges of abstract colour down to tiny flecks of subtle patterning.

Material made from recycled bottles


Material made from recycled whole wellies

I think a big panel would make a great piece of artwork, or a statement coffee table! Perhaps a bit much for a kitchen countertop :). However see below for some slightly more subtle variations which shows that the material runs equally well with traditional, classic and understated design styles.

The recycled plastics sheets have been used extensively all over the world ina variety of design contexts by big names including the Idèe showroom and golf driving range roofing in Japan (Klein Dytham), Body Shop and Blanco fashion shops throughout Spain (Fern Green), Urban Outfitters shops, The Science Museum, Design Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum and the Tate Gallery.

Fashion designer Aza Zanditon has incorporated the “Banknotes” material into her line. I love these!

Necklace, by Aza Zanditon (


Bag and ring with recycled "banknotes" plastic by Aza Zanditon


"banknotes" recycled plastic made with discarded headlights and conservatory roofing material


I love this one made with stamps!


Reception desk at Aaztec HQ made with melted mobiles


Light shade by Luminair (


the "dapple" range made from Smile's own factory waste, industrial food containers and underground pipes


Tables with recycled plastic inlay by Tim Coutts (


chairs for The Eden Project in the UK


Composite made from yogurt pots

For more details and impressive examples (some over-the-top ugly, but lots really nice!) visit the company’s site here!

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