In 2021, Flokk released a limited edition desk chair made out of recycled snow plough markers. This pilot project, conducted in collaboration with Nordic research institute SINTEF, was part of Flokk’s ongoing mission to find viable sources of plastic waste to turn into high-quality furniture.
The release of this special edition chair caught the eye - and imagination - of several key individuals, starting a chain of events resulting in a sustainable supply of discarded snow plough markers for Flokk, and a reduction in plastic waste ending up in landfill or in incineration.
In February 2021, Ivar Opås was visiting Røros. Whilst reading the newspaper he saw an article about how Flokk (whose HQ is located in Røros) had just released a chair made from recycled snow plough markers. This was incredibly interesting to Ivar, as he happened to be the General Manager of Våler Vekst, Norway’s largest producer of snowplough markers.
Established in 1994, Våler Vekst is a rehabilitation business established to help people back into work or give meaningful work to people who need an adapted job. A friendly and inclusive organisation, one of its major outputs is snow plough markers, producing 800,000 plastic markers every year, distributed to various agencies that maintain the roads during the long harsh winters.
Of the roughly 600 tonnes of plastic put out every year, 180 tonnes are damaged beyond repair. Våler Vekst has long wanted to recycle these into new markers, but the extreme temperatures of a Nordic winter put a degree of stress on the plastic that the recycled materials cannot handle.
Upon reading the article, Ivar saw his opportunity for a more sustainable solution to their waste problem and got in contact. Flokk told Ivar that despite being a success, the project was frozen due to difficulties in obtaining a regular and reliable stream of waste markers – Ivar said that perhaps he could help…
At roughly the same time that Ivar was reading his newspaper, Kjell Bjorn Vinje, Press Manager for the Statens Vegvesen (The Norwegian Public Roads Administration), was reading a magazine.
“I saw this press release from Flokk about a new chair made of snow plough markers,” recalls Kjell Bjorn. “I found this quite amusing, so I ordered one as a surprise for our director general. When it arrived, she was indeed surprised but loved it. She has many visitors and loves to see their expression when she tells them it is made of markers from our roads.”
Statens Vegvesen owns 40% of the roads in Norway, carrying 80% of all the traffic. Norway can expect up to 6 months of snow a year, so keeping the roads clear and safe is an important duty. This duty is delegated to a range of contractors; Large companies taking on urban areas and key highways, with smaller entrepreneurial types working in rural, less accessible areas for local communities.
For Kjell Bjorn, reading this article was a lightbulb moment – is there anything we can do to help? He reached out to Flokk, who had already been contacted by Våler Vekst, and received an invitation to a meeting to see what they could all do together to turn this idea into a reality.
The idea was a win-win for everyone – Flokk needed a steady stream of recycled materials, whilst Våler Vekst and Statens Vegvesen wanted a more environmentally friendly way to dispose of damaged markers. The only missing piece of the puzzle was ensuring enough road markers were collected to create a sufficient batch of chairs to be cost-effective on an industrial scale.
During the spring of 2021 Våler Vekst initiated the first run, asking their largest contractors to send them their discarded markers as part of a recycling scheme. One of the large contractors, Veidekke, was helpful in aiding Våler Vekst in developing a logistical solution. The contractors were enthusiastic about the plan and together they collected 7.5 tonnes. This raw material is processed into small chips of plastic, which are then turned into chair components, without any additives or virgin plastic, making it 100% recycled.
7.5 tonnes roughly equates to 2,800 HÅG Capisco Puls chairs, which are now available to purchase online. Unlike the limited edition series, the first full batch is available in every HÅG Capisco Puls model, with a choice of metal paint colour and a full range of fabrics.
Due to the unique composition of raw materials, (not all of the markers are the same colour) each yearly “batch” of plastic will have a slight variation of colour – a subtle marker for which ‘vintage’ chair it is. Snow plough markers collected this spring/summer will form our batch of chairs released in 2023. We already know it will be a much larger batch.
Since 2021, both Våler Vekst and Statens Vegvesen have been working together to expand the number of snow plough markers collected. Våler Vekst sent out 200 large bags (each with a 600kg capacity) to various entrepreneurs to return their damaged markers. If each one is filled, that would equate to 120 tonnes, and already they have received a majority of them back.
At the moment, all of this is voluntary, and down to communication and encouragement from Våler Vekst, but the road agencies hope to make it part of the contracts going forward.
Kjell Bjørn Vinje – Statens Vegvesen: “Our contracts are often 5 years, and some of them currently include some recycle claims. So what we can do before we change our contracts is to encourage our contractors to participate in the recycling scheme, and encourage them to deliver the snow plough markers to Flokk and their partners. In the long term, we want to change our contracts to include recycling of snow plough markers as standard. We have held several conferences to put across the message, and show the great environmental impact we can all achieve together.”
With enough participation and a steady high volume stream of markers, Flokk hopes to expand the material choice to further products across all of the brands of Flokk. The ability to include 100% post-consumer recycled plastics has a wide range of benefits and directly aligns with Flokk's 2030 sustainability goals.
Recycled materials, including plastics, create a lower carbon footprint compared to using virgin materials, whilst at the same time having a positive impact on the environment by using waste materials. That is why Flokk aims to have on average 60% recycled materials in all of our chairs by 2030.
Speaking about the project, Christian Lodgaard, Senior Vice President of Products & Brands at Flokk said; "To be able to turn a substantial volume of pure waste into highly functional, beautiful products makes you feel good about going to work."
The 2022 series of HÅG Capisco Puls in snow plough marker plastic is now available.
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