Designer mining the potential of recycling

Karoline Healy has turned old pallets into her portable workshop and kitchen appliances into its manufacturing tools – all so she can transform your old plastic into working watches.

Karoline Healy has turned old pallets into her portable workshop and kitchen appliances into its manufacturing tools – all so she can transform your old plastic into working watches.

Called 'Domestic Mining', every stage of the Nottingham Trent University Decorative Art student's project has sustainability at its core.

"It's a self-sufficient compact workshop system which enables on-the-spot personal fabrication by processing and transforming household waste plastic into wearable watches," explained Karoline.

She melts plastic bags and bottles at her kiosk to make the main face of the watch. To make her process as environmentally friendly as possible, Karoline has constructed her wheeled kiosk out of reclaimed wooden packaging pallets which she has hand planed and screwed together so they can be easily dismantled for transportation or to be recycled again. No glues or varnishes have been used.

To process the plastic needed to make the watches, Karoline has taken out the electrics from an old kitchen blender and a discarded shredder and installed manual mechanisms so she can use them by hand, without electricity.

The watch movements are salvaged from old watches Karoline bought from charity shops and the straps and casings are made out of scraps of vegetable tanned leather and metal she has collected. The body of the watch is made from a flat pack net, formed by bending around the plastic so that no glue is used, again allowing the watch to be dismantled and recycled.

"I've always been interested in reusing scraps and making the most of it," said Karoline. "It really came from not wanting to buy any new materials and then I wanted to go further and work with plastics as well."

To perfect her watch-making process, Karoline tested various plastics to see which could be melted and remoulded without producing fumes. She uses two types of recyclable plastics – High-density polyethylene (HDPE) – the most recycled plastic which is commonly used for milk containers and carrier bags, and polypropene (PP) – a widely used and often colourful plastic again used for various packaging.

"The aim of a pop-up workshop is to educate and remind the public about plastic and its potential in the environment," said Karoline. "It also explores the idea of fusing the user and designer-maker roles."

Her work was displayed as part of the University's annual degree show festival, held from May 30 to June 7 which showcases the original, innovative and inspiring work being produced within the internationally renowned School of Art & Design, and School of Architecture, Design and the Built Environment at undergraduate level.

During the shows, students also exhibit nationally, taking part in a range of prominent and prestigious London shows, including New Designers.

At New Designers, Karoline was awarded the Not On The High Street Associate Prize for her project. Judges commented "From start to finish, the conception and execution of this product is fantastic. Made by a modern machine constructed by Karoline, the way the customer is pulled into the manufacturing process is delightfully less-ordinary. The product story has been thought about meticulously - we love it!"

Details about the shows are available on the Nottingham Trent University website. More information on Karoline's award is available on the New Designers site.

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Designer mining the potential of recycling

Published on 6 June 2014
  • Category: Press office; School of Art & Design

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