Oliver Heath - the art of recycling

Sustainable architectural designer , TV presenter and writer, Oliver Heath is a firm believer in the art of recycling. It's also a money-saving technique which also allows him to indulge his imaginative flair.

What has been the biggest influence on your designs?

When I was little we used to have breakfast on the beach and picnics in the countryside. I learnt to fire-juggle, and I used to teach windsurfing.

I discovered that when you’re outside all the time, thinking about the wind and the tides, the natural world becomes very important.

What kind of products are now being designed from recycled materials?

There’s an awful lot of exciting design stuff out there. I like all the new uses for ordinary products: (see recycled products guide)

  • plastic bottles turned into fleeces
  • glass bottles into paving
  • circuit boards into lampshades
  • rubber tyres into pencil cases and carpets
  • plastic vending cups turned into pencils
  • organic waste

All of our home needs do not have to come from a high street shop, and if you don’t have a lot of money, you have to think very carefully about what you really want to do.

What is your opinion of the average modern piece of flatpack furniture?

I’m so bored by it. It encourages you to consume and consume and then throw it away as soon as it falls apart, or the next season comes around.

There’s no sense of quality to it or of it ageing and becoming part of the family, or an heirloom.

So many pieces of furniture will never get better, they just deteriorate from the moment you take them out of the box.

As a result, you go to a lot of houses and there’s a great sense of blandness about the decorative style.

How would you advise people hoping to re-decorate their homes?

Redecorating your home doesn’t mean chucking everything out and buying this and that.

Why get a new chair if you’ve got an old one you can paint or decorate or re-cover? If you can find a new use for something old, great – it’s cheaper and you use your imagination.

A lot of my expenditure as a designer is to do with buying recycled scraps of leather, glass or slate. There’s lots of material out there that can be re-used.

This article is taken from Earthmatters, Friends of the Earth's supporter magazine - join to receive your copy.

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