ocean plastics

Adding it up

By incorporating ocean-bound plastic into some of their signature products, Herman Miller shows little pieces have a big impact.

Herman Miller was a sponsor of the Metropolis Perspective: Sustainability 2021 Symposium.

The furniture industry uses a lot of plastic, there’s no doubt about it. In addition to products made of this durable, lightweight material, it’s used in shipping crates to send products and materials between suppliers and in packaging bags that keep products safe in transit. Unfortunately, plastic is also damaging to the environment, especially when particles get into the world’s oceans where they pollute waterways, often in developing countries, and harm marine life.

But what if furniture manufacturers could be a part of the solution? Herman Miller recently announced that the brand’s signature Aeron chair would be produced in part with recycled ocean-bound plastic, including a new colorway, Onyx, which contains up to 2.5 pounds per chair. Herman Miller approached the problem holistically—looking for ways to make the biggest impact. The effort, which also includes other parts of the recently launched OE1 Workplace Collection, utility trays as part of pedestal units, and a textile collection, Revenio, which is made of 100 percent recycled materials and includes a biodegradable polyester, is part of the manufacturer’s mission to use 50 percent recycled content in all materials by 2030. By intercepting plastic before it reaches the world’s oceans and using those materials to make furniture, the company estimates that it will divert up to 234 metric tons of plastic from the ocean each year.

Aeron chair

Teaming up with NextWave, a consortium of likeminded companies, Herman Miller is working to further magnify their impact by creating demand and establishing supply chains for reclaimed ocean-bound plastic for industrial use. In locations like India and Indonesia, where plastic pollution is a major problem, Herman Miller and other NextWave member companies collaborate with their supply chain partners to collect ocean-bound plastic. The material is then ground, washed, and pelletized before being reengineered into useful products. Employing locals and working with OceanCycle—a social enterprise company—Herman Miller’s recycling efforts have not only an environmental benefit, but do social good, investing in coastal communities at the highest risk for plastic pollution.

ocean plastics

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