Family upcycles plastic bottle caps into trendy homeware

The Plastic Factory in Brussels is a family-owned art collective that creates and sells upcycled plastic pieces.

The online shop offers earrings, bowls and lamps made of used plastic bottle caps. It’s the brainchild of design school graduate Mathilde Rulens and her sculptor father Pierre Rulens. The family members operate from their home where they collect, recycle and redesign the plastic caps into new items.

“Plastic is a durable material. It lasts incredibly well over time, it’s very sturdy. It’s made out of petrol, we shouldn’t forget,” Mathilde told the Associated Press. “It’s polluting, it’s not made for being used once and then thrown out, no: it’s made to be reused or recycled and I think people really need to understand this.”

Rulens’ interest plastics began when she was traveling abroad and noticed so much of it where it shouldn’t be: in nature.

“I’ve seen a lot of the damage that mankind and pollution have made around the world,” she told the Associated Press. “It shocked me completely; I was so disgusted that I started to read about the ecology, recycling, about the zero-waste approach which I found very interesting,”

The Plastic Factory upcycles about 33 to 45 pounds of plastic each week now. They chose bottle tops because they’re small, making them easy to store and available in tons of colors. Additionally, food-grade plastic is non-toxic.

“When Mathilde and I meet, we discuss our work of the day and Mathilde asks for my opinion: ‘I have a request to do this or this, what do you think?’ We ponder and find solutions for her requests. At the same time — like all researchers, like all creators we find new applications (new ideas),” Pierre told the Associated Press.

Pierre assembled the company’s plastic-melting machines from discarded materials. One machine heats the plastic and turns it into a thread that can be woven, while the other uses a metal mold to press the plastic into a bowl.

“I liked the idea of recycling, of reusing materials a lot,” Plastic Factory customer Muriel d’Odemont said. “It’s in line with the spirit of our times. I think this is the generation that will change the world and it’s teaching us a different approach to consumption.”

If you liked this story, check out this piece on affordable sustainable utensils.

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