How You Can Turn Recycled Newspapers Into Park Benches

Sustainability and making the most of renewable resources like recycled newspaper remain chilly abstractions to many people unless the process presents them something tangible, such as an artifact like a park bench.

By creating something that people can use to relax on their breaks, all the noise about re-using post-consumer recyclables suddenly makes sense. Instead of ignoring recycling efforts, your employees may suddenly have a flourishing interest in conserving newspaper waste now that there is a direct benefit for them.

Greener Recycling Design

Although there’s nothing new about paper furniture, in the past, there hasn’t been much emphasis on sustainable practices for re-fashioning post-consumer materials.

However, in order to achieve the stated goals of keeping the environment cleaner and developing more sustainable resources, the gurus must present us with more and more durable consumer goods, not just recycled toilet paper and water bottles.

Meet the Man of the Moment

By happenstance, sustainable park benches – and the Paper Bricks they’re made of – are a hot topic the in art and design world.

Developed by sculptor Woojai Lee, Paper Bricks are constructed of shredded newspaper that’s saturated with glue and molded into shape. The result is bricks with a marbled exterior and a textured finish that feels worn like wood and paper. As durable as wood, the bricks can be cut, glued and drilled to make very simple, tight joints fixed with wood glue. The material is also very easy to dye in the colors of your choice.

Lee’s goal was to produce a material from recycled post-consumer newspapers that’s much stronger and more durable than the original material. Molding it into brick-shape reduces the amount of material needed for manufacture, minimizes stress that damages fibers, and maximizes strength. When the bricks eventually break down, they’re easy and cheap to replace. Old bricks recycle very easily into compost.

Proof of Concept

Lee’s own exemplars of modern/industrial benches and coffee tables are still few (with a series of wall panels on the way) but very telling.

Titled the Pallet Collection, they’ve been displayed at Dutch Design Week and featured in professional design publications such as Architect Magazine and Interior Design. For more information about Paper Bricks and building benches, contact Lee, who graduated from the Design Academy of Eindhoven in December 2016, through his website.

Act Now to Make Benches

While you’re designing benches, start collecting newspapers and other clean paper waste. While Lee hasn’t revealed the formula for how many pounds go into each brick, it’s likely you’ll need plenty to build enough benches to donate to a park.

Turn your paper drive into a community project by setting collection sites and storage facilities. Solicit volunteers and donations from:

  • Local Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops
  • Local civic organizations, churches and schools
  • Local newspaper offices and paper producers
  • Local merchants’ associations and corporate outreach offices
  • City and county government

You’ll score big on sustainability and renewable resources and get all your points for community outreach and involvement. Plus, you’ll make some way cool benches.

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