In the first of our Green Design series, we feature NewspaperWood, a sustainable material made from waste newspapers which was originally developed in the Netherlands by designer Mieke Meijer during her studies at the Design Academy in Eindhoven.
When it comes to sleek, high-performance supercars, recycled newspaper is not the first material that comes to mind. But NewspaperWood has been used to stunning effect in the Peugeot Onyx, a state-of-the-art concept car that has been turning heads at international motor shows.
The Onyx’s eye-catching dashboard and interior trims have been crafted from NewspaperWood, and teamed with a seamless wool-felt fabric to create an inviting and comfortable interior for the driver and passenger.
Created as a ‘showcase of technological excellence and craftsmanship’, the Peugeot Onyx displays this highly-desirable sustainable material to its best advantage.
Everybody knows that you can make paper from wood. But I thought it would be a nice idea to do the opposite, and try to make wood from newspaper. Mieke Meijer
NewspaperWood’s distinct but subtle multi-coloured ‘wood grain’ is created when the layers of waste newspaper are built up and bonded together. When Mieke Meijer first experimented with creating hand-glued NewspaperWood logs, as part of a materials design project at University, this process was pain-stakingly done by hand.
It wasn’t until Meijer collaborated with Dutch design company Vij5 that its potential as a sustainable material with real applications in design would be realised. Together they developed a bespoke machine to compress and glue the paper with enough uniformity to make Newspaper Wood viable for large-scale production. The resulting material could then be cut, milled and sanded in the same way as normal timber.
With the support of the Eindhoven Daily, the leading regional newspaper in the local area, NewspaperWood is now produced from test prints and unusable newspapers, as well as newspapers that are printed but not sold.
NewspaperWood takes the newspapers out of the existing cycle of paper-recycling, but as the material is made using a glue which is free of solvents and plasticisers, it can be returned into this cycle when the time comes.
Once the production process had been industrialised, Vij5 invited a talented group of new designers to produce the first Vij5 design collection.
Through this collection, NewspaperWood made its debut at international design fairs.
The current NewspaperWood Collection includes work by designers rENs, Breg Hanssen, Greetje van Tiem, Ontwerpduo, Floris Hovers, Christian Kocx and Tessa Kuyvenhoven. The collection contains practical and conceptual elements that explore both the structural and aesthetic qualities of NewspaperWood.
Works such as Breg Hanssen’s Framed cabinets, and Ontwerp Duo’s Paper Frames draw inspiration from NewspaperWood’s multi- coloured grain, which is emphasised and framed with bold colours.
For other designers, conceptual aspects of the newspaper itself come to the fore.
Design duo rENs regard NewspaperWood as an archive made of characters, words, sentences and stories. The archiving, storage and filing of this information is articulated though furniture and jewellery designs such as Display Cabinet and Sample Series necklaces.
Greetje van Tiem focusses her attention on the typographic characters within the newsprint, and the drawers of her From A to Z desk feature handles with an abstract alphabet created from NewspaperWood.
The Vij5 NewspaperWood design collection continues to grow and develop, and works are regularly exhibited at international design shows and galleries.
Ultimately, NewspaperWood does not aim to be a large scale alternative to wood, but serves to illustrate how surplus materials can be transformed into something more valuable. Perhaps as the newspaper industry declines, it might disappear altogether. But in the meantime, NewspaperWood continues to undergo exciting developments, including larger scale manufacture, and its potential for architectural applications is also being explored.
As NewspaperWood shows, sustainable materials are gaining ground, but commercialisation is often difficult. Thankfully sustainable design remains high on the agenda within design education and NewspaperWood illustrates the forward-thinking approach being adopted by designers. Sustainability is an issue that needs to be addressed, and for consumers, products made from materials such as NewspaperWood can provide a stronger sense of connection and involvement in that process.
About Mieke Meijer and Vij5
Mieke Meijer (pictured left) graduated from the Design Academy Eindhoven in 2006. She works on self-initiated and commissioned design projects from Studio Mieke Meijer, her design studio based in Eindhoven, in The Netherlands. Mieke Meijer regularly takes part in exhibitions in different contexts both nationally and internationally. Her work is available through a limited selection of galleries in the Netherlands and abroad.
Anieke Branderhorst (centre) and Arjan van Raadshooven (right) are the founders of Dutch designlabel Vij5, specialists in interior products characterised by simplicity and the use of existing elements. Van Raadshooven and Branderhorst designed the basis of the product collection, and now work in collaboration with other young designers to broaden their collection. Vij5 design products are available through select selling points in the Netherlands and overseas. Vij5 also exhibit their work at international design shows.
- Vij5 design company website >
- Mieke Meijer website >
- Watch Newspaperwood video >
- Explore Peugeot Onyx concept car >
- Peugeot Onyx Concept car video >
Photo credits: Copyright Vij5 and Peugeot.
NewspaperWood features in the January 2014 edition of Rhine Capital Partners monthly investment updates.
- On 29th January 2014