Although typically associated with beaches and playgrounds, sand is a resource essential to the continued functioning of our technology-driven society. Sand makes our electronic devices function, our homes light and warm, our communication fast (and ever faster) and our energy consumption more sustainable. Sand is integral to the production of silicon microchips, fiberoptic cables, insulation, and solar cells. Moreover, sand is the primary ingredient in glass, which is used in consumer electronic products such as fridges, microwaves, and computers. Despite great efforts to extract, transport, refine and process sand into complex electronic components, little is done to recycle these components when electronic goods reach the end of their lives. They are sent to landfill. Glass has material properties excellent for recycling, but existing EU directives to effectively process glass from electronic waste (e-waste) does not exist. Sand is a finite resource, and as the volume of e-waste rapidly increases worldwide, we need strategies and solutions.
Based on existing research by Studio Plastique, Common Sands – 'Forite' evolved as a collaboration between Studio Plastique and Snøhetta, with the aim of exploring the potential applications of recycled e-waste glass. Through many prototypes and variations, a process for recycling e-waste glass components was developed, leading to the development of an application integrating and celebrating its variable material qualities to create glass tiles. Italian ceramic tile manufacturer Fornace Brioni later joined the team, bringing their experience, industrial know-how, production facilities and potential for scalability to the project. Made from recycled glass from microwave ovens, the tiles have been developed in two different sizes. The tiles are both opaque and transparent, each with a unique pattern and expression. With a deeply complex, terrazzo-like material quality, they are suitable for a wide range of architectural applications, including both surface coverage and semi-transparent partition elements.
Common Sands – Forite positively leverages the unique properties of composition, colour, and structure inherent in the waste material into a series of architectural glass tiles. In an industry which demands transparency and consistency as a standard, Common Sands – Forite embraces the variance and complexity already embedded in the recycled materials. Focus has been set on waste glass from ovens and microwaves as a starting point to demonstrate the aesthetic depth, function, and potential of the recycled material, but does not limit the project to this material stream alone.
This collaboration with Studio Plastique and Fornace Brioni meets contemporary challenges with ambitious, pragmatic, and scalable solutions. Working across disciplines, organisations, and specialisations, the project is an example of how collaboration and curiosity can contribute to creating significant changes within circular and sustainable design.
Forite tiles are suitable for indoor and outdoor use as they are made from 100% glass. The distinct pattern of the tiles is due to the metallic oxides present in the glass components recovered from e-waste.
Information submitted by the maker and edited by the Future Materials Bank.
Studio Plastique, Snøhetta, Fornace Brioni