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InspirationApr 19, 2023

Top five explorations of design for repurposing

Photo of woman holding renewable material in her hands Photo: IKEA

Susan Yang RGD, Creative Director, Padometric Studio shares examples of how design for repurposing creates value and innovation on a wider scale, allowing for future repurposing.

The following five inspirational examples share a focus on a changing role for design that explores new ways to turn waste into long-lasting regenerative value.

Although conditions for repurposing are not fully known in advance, by exploring new materials and technologies, designers are uncovering new value creation opportunities and innovative approaches in strategy, development and process.

As design decisions have an impact from the beginning, by tackling the challenges of sustainability with creativity and a greater contextual awareness, future repurposing becomes an evolved adaptive strategy. As a process of engagement, the value of design for repurposing creates benefits for people and the environment.


Samsung has repurposed ocean-bound plastics by creating a technology to transform discarded fishing nets, which are difficult to upcycle, into a new kind of recycled plastic—high-performance polyamide resins. The transformed material is used in their product design and development in devices such as smartphones, buds and tablets. By recovering and transforming more than 50 tons of discarded fishing nets from our oceans, repurposing for design benefits marine life and natural ecosystems, inspiring and helping planet conservation.

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Sony has developed “Original Blended Material” that creates sustainable packaging that is paper-based instead of plastic. The durable paper material is made from short growth plants such as bamboo, sugar cane and from post-consumer recycled paper. The unique formulation can take on different shapes and purposes and can be collected with other paper materials for recycling into new paper easily. By converting their packaging design into “materials for communication”, design decisions include embossing to reduce ink use across words and texts and removal of unnecessary colouring to retain an organic look and feel. 

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IKEA is developing products to support healthy and sustainable living. By choosing renewable and recyclable materials, they are transforming themselves into a circular business with four circular loops (reuse, refurbishment, remanufacturing, recycling). The intent is to create emotional connection through design with functional sustainability. In the making of their products, the goal is for standardization and adaptability by building in processes to develop and use regenerative resources—materials that come from more responsible, sustainable sources and recycled materials such as wood, cotton, wool, inorganic, fibres and polyester.

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From design to production, Pangaia reimagines an approach that combines a vision of innovation and materials science. Lifestyle products and experiences are designed and developed by researching, creating and using innovative and regenerative materials that focus on minimizing resource consumption, eliminating waste and extending the life of their products. Innovative materials designed into their clothing include Air Ink (air pollution particles into water-based black ink), C-Fiber (eucalyptus pulp, seaweed powder and organic cotton made into fabric) and PPRMINT (natural, plant-based peppermint oil to prevent growth of odour causing bacteria on clothing). 

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adidas x Parley

Through a partnership with environmental organization Parley for the Oceans, adidas is helping to intercept plastic waste and transform it into high performance polyester yarn. By exploring and creating new technologies for regenerative materials, millions of pieces of plastic waste have been turned into designs for all sorts of sport performance gear. 

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