Granted, as far as diversifying your retail product mix, outdoor/patio furniture is not as sexy as, say, mattresses. But a convergence of somewhat otherwise disassociated conditions – the “end” of the pandemic, the coming barbeque season, and a heightened recognition of single-use plastic’s increasingly dangerous environmental impact – makes the outdoor furniture sold by Unwasted a potential new retail basket expander.
Long-story short, Unwasted designs and manufacturers premium, non-traditional, high design “mid-century” modern outdoor furniture with a more indoor aesthetic from recycled lastic. But Unwasted’s wares don’t look or feel like plastic.
Why furniture from recycled plastic? According to the U.N., at current usage rates the volume of plastic will double by 2040 and the amount of plastic in the oceans will triple to 600 million tons. Scarily, the amount of plastic will overwhelm the infrastructure designed to deal with it; it will require 500,000 people a day to deal with the piles of plastic we make and consume only once.
Founded in March 2020 in Toronto by industrial designer Ashley Gorrie, Unwasted’s philosophy is to contribute to the new circular plastic economy by giving otherwise trashed or discarded single-use plastic a trendy second life.
“We designed and built this company specifically so that the furniture didn’t feel like cheap recycled material,” explains Gorrie. “We’ve designed everything we build with traditional woodworking fabrication so there are no exposed fasteners. It’s very durable, it’s very heavy so it’s quite a dense product, and the style of fabrication is more like traditional woodwork. It has much more sophisticated lines, a sort of brushed metal feel.”
Unwasted’s furniture isn’t cheap in either feel or price. Its current 10 SKUs range from a CAD$299.99 side table to a CAD$1,599.99 dining table. In between are dining, Adirondack, and both “tall” and “short” lounge chairs, as well as varying side tables, most available in black, grey, white, or red. Unwasted’s newest piece is a four-way adjustable chaise lounger with a cushion filled with soy-based rather than the traditional and environmentally unfriendly polyethylene foam. “We’re exploring materials outside of just plastic that are sustainable,” notes Gorrie. In the Unwasted works are an outdoor sectional sofa, a rocking chair, and a tall bar-type serving table. Gorrie is also exploring other recyclable materials such as metal, glass, and sustainable fabrics for both outdoor and indoor furniture.
Expensive? Yes, but “one chair is 60 pounds of plastic that has been diverted from landfill and in the oceans, because that’s inevitably where it ends up,” explains Gorrie. “It’s our business responsibility to bring more sustainable products to consumers and let them decide whether or not they wanted to invest in a sustainable product or not.”
Not only is Unwasted keeping plastics out of landfills, it’s also helping to get plastics out of the ocean. The company contributes 1% of its revenue to Plastics Ocean International, a non-profit that promotes ending ocean plastic pollution.
Gorrie recognizes its pricing is a bit, well, limited to the well-heeled home owner who’ll use the Unwasted furniture for both partying and environmentally conscious bragging rights, but hopes that as plastic recycling ramps up, Unwasted furniture pricing can come down.
“One day we hope that we are going to be driving enough volume associated with this type of plastic material that we’re able to drive pricing down,” Gorrie says. “We still face some of the challenges around green premiums and what it costs to produce something more sustainably than it does to produce overseas. It is a domestically made product which also contributes to the cost.”
Gorrie has just begun onboarding U.S. retailers – Unwasted doesn’t dropship to the U.S. market – including furniture, DIY hardware, warehouse, and appliance retailers. “The outdoor furniture category has skyrocketed since COVID began,” Gorries enthuses, and thinks Unwasted’s products “would really benefit these retailers to increase basket size.”
For more information, visit www.unwastedtrash.com/home.