You may have heard about the huge floating islands of garbage swirling around in the middle of the Earth's oceans. Much of that waterlogged rubbish is made up of plastic and, like Electrolux with its concept vacuum cleaners, U.K.-based Studio Swine and Kieren Jones are looking to put that waste to good use. As part of an ambitious project, they’ve come up with a system to collect plastic debris and convert it into furniture.

The Sea Chair project hopes to create a win-win for the marine ecosystem and a fishing industry in crisis. Rather than collecting plastic that washes ashore or is snagged as by-catch in fishing nets, the team hopes to one day go where the trash is, collect and convert it to something useful while still at sea. Sea Chair envisions adapting fishing boats into floating chair factories that trawl for plastic and put it into production on-board.

Fishing vessels could be adapted to trawl for plastic

Taking the notion of retro-fitting entire industries in its own image to an even more radical level, they also describe a future in which dormant oil rigs in the middle of the oceans are put to use for harvesting reserves of plastic trash that will eventually sink to the bottom of the sea.

While many of the Sea Chair project's grand ambitions for the fishing and petroleum industries still remain far off, it has managed some more humble innovations to collect and convert waste plastic into furniture.

The team created a contraption it dubbed the "Nurdler" to sort through tons of beached marine debris in search of pieces of micro-plastic called nurdles. Nurdles are pellet-like pieces of plastic about 4 mm (0.15 in) in diameter that wash into the sea from industrial facilities. According to the Sea Chair website, nurdles have not yet been injection-molded, making them ideal for production. The Nurdler is a bit like the Sea Chair project's equivalent of panning for gold.

Plastic provides a colorful palette

The team also created a combination furnace and hydraulic press which can fit on a small fishing vessel to create chairs from collected nurdles and other plastics while still at sea – or wherever. The press can also be used to compress collected seaweed by-catch into briquettes that can then be burned to fuel the furnace for chair production.

The result of all this so far has been a pretty simple three-legged stool made up entirely of melted-down and re-purposed sea plastic. Each chair created is tagged with the geographical coordinates of the location where the plastic it is made of was collected.

Finished Sea Chair

The first sea chairs popped up at the Furniture Fair in Milan earlier this year, but no information on future availability or pricing have been made public just yet.

Source: Studio Swine