Smile Plastics

Colourful, patterned sheet material made from waste plastic

Smile Plastics make boards for use in small scale product manufacture, commercial interiors and furniture. The boards are available in standard sizes and thicknesses, and come in a variety of colours and patterns, each arising from different waste materials: from yogurt pots to chopping boards, wellies, to mobile phone cases.

The boards can be cut, shaped and assembled using standard tools and processes, and are suitable for a variety of applications: they’re waterproof, easy to clean, rot and stain resistant.

How is it redistributive?

Manufacturing at scale relies on regularised materials. A manufacturer making furniture from flat panels needs each board to be the same as the last: the same dimensions, rigidity, finish and so on. Current distributed manufacturing projects, particularly those that use digital machines such as CNC routers, make use of existing regularised boards such as plywood and MDF. These materials are widely available, come in standard dimensions and can be expected to behave the same way no matter where they’re from.

Today, many of the products we see being cut and assembled in local micro-factories are made from materials from the global supply chain; materials that aren’t necessarily made from sustainable sources, and aren’t designed to be reclaimed once a product has reached the end of its life.

Tomorrow, we hope these same micro-factories will be able to use materials such as textiles and furniture boards that have been made from from local resources such as waste or by-products of other local industries.

What are the barriers to mainstream success?
  • Smile Plastics are made by hand, with a lead time of several weeks for new boards to be manufactured. Can the process be scaled up to be more accessible?
  • How can waste be managed locally so that more of it can be made available as a resource for processing into new materials?
  • What other locally available resources and waste can be processed in similar ways to create new kinds of local materials to be used in locally assembled products?

Related projects
  • Solid Wool: solid board made from unwanted sheep’s wool bound in bio-resin
  • Granby Workshop mantlepieces: imbuing materials with a value that comes from their local origin, rather than anonymous commodities

How to exhibit

A series of objects made from solid board materials, capable of being cut using digital tools. For example Smile Plastic, plywood, Solid Wool, Solid Textile Board, etc.

Further Reading

Smile Plastics website

Recycled plastic panels by Smile Plastics
Antonia Edwards, Upcyclist, September 2016