Mater: Beautiful Sustainability

When they collect your recycling, why do they always give you back one piece of the plastic — the bin? It’s one of the world’s conundrums, joining the singular Monopolies Commission and the five syllables in the word monosyllabic in a catalogue of unsolved puzzles. There is no great mystery, however, about the fact that recycling is no longer a laughing matter. Nor about how Mater’s beautiful sustainability leads the way as an example of what people can achieve. 

Studies show the global economy uses up 100 billion tonnes of materials every year. Yet people recycle less than 9 billion tonnes of it. Worse, with some products in some major economies, the recycling rate is falling, not rising. Yet, there is no infinite supply of raw materials and recycling saves energy, water, land, and greenhouse gas emissions. 

All of which goes to make manufacturers like Mater globally important. By using its products, you can bask in the virtuous glow of helping to save the planet while sacrificing nothing in terms of good looks, cutting-edge design or practicality. Pretty much the definition of win-win. 

Why Mater Matters

While Mater uses a lot of well-established designs and designers, the company has only been around since 2006. Henrik Marstrand founded it in Copenhagen with the express purpose of being a pioneering furniture brand with sustainability at its core.

The name, Mother in Latin, is a nod to the challenges facing “mother earth”. That also reflects the company’s founding principles. 

“Design influences how we as humans live our lives; it shapes values, culture, and society. Unfortunately, we are increasingly aware that the choices made during design processes often have environmental consequences. As a manufacturer, we have the opportunity to rethink dubious practices and create ethical and sustainable design that minimises adverse social and environmental impacts,” is how Henrik Marstrand put it. 

It is not as though it is easy to find good news tales from the recycling industry. They encourage you to recycle, but it can be tricky and time-consuming. Sometimes, for example, it feels as though you need a degree in chemical engineering to know what plastics can and cannot go for recycling.

Then, what happens after they empty the bins? You’ve done your bit, but is the recycling industry doing its part? The short answer is, not really. A recycling rate of less than nine percent is a drop in the ocean. Too much waste still heads for landfill or, even worse, carbon dioxide-generating incinerators, while raw materials are running out. It is not a system that can last.

All of which makes the role of Mater as a pioneer in ways to promote recycling while focussing on design and quality especially important. 

Make It With Matek

Mater uses several types of raw material in its production process, but the big breakthrough came when it invented a material it calls Matek, made entirely from waste products. 

Matek combines some kind of fibre with a binder. The fibre comes from a range of materials, including coffee bean shells — extracted during the roasting process — and sawdust from wood production. The binder material comes from plastic waste or a plastic-based alternative. They are mixed according to a secret formula to create a unique compound suitable for press moulding, a staple manufacturing technique in the furniture industry. 

The technology allows Mater stay with beautiful sustainability while it recycles waste into timeless classics using other companies’ waste instead of virgin materials. Currently, there are five unique material blends under the Matek brand name, but new blends are likely to be added.

The result is attractive, useful and durable furniture made from a material that is highly versatile as well as water-repellent. All with the bonus of saving the planet. 

Mater’s Five Beautiful, Sustainable Winners 

The current versions of Matek show the range on offer. 

Coffee waste Matek comes in three varieties: black, light and dark. They are all made from the waste from the discarded shells that would otherwise be thrown away during the coffee roasting process. This is mixed with recycled industrial plastic waste, from sources such as discarded fishing nets or plastic beer kegs. The different colours make for a wide range of uses.

Wood waste comes from sawdust sourced from many manufacturers. They add it to plastic waste recycled from industry. 

Beer waste comes from spent grain used in brewing. Mater gets it from the Carlsberg’s brewery near their headquarters and, as with the other version of Matek, adds recycled industrial plastic waste for the final version and mould it into an exciting piece of furniture. 

The Conscious Chair

The Mater products cover everything from modern ideas to design classics. None show the value of the latter more than its version of the Conscious Chair, another example of Mater’s beautiful sustainability.

Anybody who has looked into 20th century furniture design knows about Børge Mogensen. He was one of the leading lights of the Scandinavian post-war design revolution. Together with Esben Klint, another big hitter in the field, he came up with the Conscious Chair in 1958, and it has been a staple of the Danish furniture market ever since. 

This, however, is the first time someone has relaunched a Børge Mogensen design in a different material from the one he envisioned. His granddaughter, Emilie Ventujol Mogensen, explains: “Our family shares the understanding that just because you can produce some of his designs, you don’t have to — it needs to make sense in ways that cannot necessarily be measured. 

“It must be driven by visionaries who do not accept the world’s status quo. Mater is on an important mission working with circular production. We support that with our family’s name and values.”

The Bowl Table

If you need a table that things won’t roll off, the Bowl Table from rising young designer Ayush Kasliwal is the answer. The India-based artist works with the development of craft concepts using centuries-old skills and ideas. His work represents a fusion of creativity with integrity. 

He used Matek in any of the three colour schemes for the tabletop. Ayush Kasliwal used recycled steel with a black powder-coated finish for the legs to make sure they last. He designed the piece to be easy to disassemble, making it easy for the table itself to be recycled when the time comes. 

The Eternity Side Chair

Another design classic, the Eternity chair is designed for comfort but is also robust and practical. The durable Matek makes this stackable chair perfect for both private and public use. It is not only sustainable but also stylish and functional. The sleek and modern look works in just about any space. 

The design comes from another of the industry’s big hitters, in this case the Space Copenhagen studio, the brainchild of Signe Bindslev Henriksen and Peter Bundgaard Rützou. 

Space Copenhagen describes its design principles as “poetic modernism”, balancing classic with modern, industrial with organic, sculptural with minimal and light with shade. All that is certainly on display with this creation of theirs. 

It is the first circular shell chair produced by Mater, marking a new beginning and endless possibilities for the company. The name Eternity itself reflects Mater’s circular mindset and the way they made it from recycled materials. You literally can recycle it eternally, a perfect example of Mater’s sustainability. 

Ocean Chair

The Mater commitment to sustainability and the environment is still at the heart of the Ocean chair. This time the big-name designers are Jørgen and Nanna Ditzel, who came up with it as part of an outdoor seating collection. There are three colour options to fit any scheme.

It lives up to its name on the recycling side, with recycled ocean plastic making up the seat and back. Jørgen and Nanna Ditzel found inspiration from the ocean, with its curves and fluid lines, when they created the design. That makes it comfortable and ergonomic, providing a relaxed experience.

 Recycling at Mater

It is not just the Matek’s beautiful sustainability that includes recycled materials. All the Mater furniture uses recycled materials. Other examples include aluminium from local industries, plastic from a variety of sources, discarded fishing nets and other ocean waste and unwanted mango wood. 

The other major innovation Mater has come up with is its “Take-Back” scheme. In principle, the idea is simple, though the international nature of its business makes it harder in practice.

In a nutshell, Mater offers to take back the Matek furniture. They made the material so it can be recycled repeatedly. That means an unwanted table or chair can make its way back to the factory, where crafts workers will turn it back into a new furniture classic. 

Mater is the only manufacturer to use Matek and, therefore, the only company with the technology to recycle it. It sees the take-back initiative as helping to transform the furniture industry into a more responsible sector.

Recycling the Mater Way

The company promises to recycle its own waste from its manufacturing processes and to lead the hunt for new ways to make furniture in an environmentally responsible way. 

It aims to create partnerships for change and supports the sustainable development goals promoted by the United Nations. Mater’s search is for new and better ways of responsibly making its designs in beautiful sustainability.

It works with local artisans and craftsmen from around the world, who use traditional techniques and recycled materials to create durable furniture pieces. Then, when, or if, most of its products reach the end of their useful life, the company will take them back and recycle them. A perfect example of circular production.

Mater has also signed up to the principles of the United Nations global compact, a pledge that covers human rights, labour, the environment and anti-corruption.

Ketil Ardal, the chief executive officer, emphasises that the commitments to all those vital principles goes along with the company’s drive to sustainable development and production. Just as important: it comes with no compromises regarding design and quality. 

Mater: Sustainable and Stylish

Waste not; want not. In the middle of the climate crisis, it is a phrase we are all hearing more and more. Recycling occupies a bigger and bigger role in daily life, even if it is something of a chore. So let’s celebrate the positive side of it all and how, in furniture maker Mater, beautiful sustainability is the driving force in a company going places. 

Mater is a perfect example of how recycling can be stylish, functional, and ethical. Their products are designed to last for generations and to inspire us to live more consciously and responsibly.

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