15 Minutes With: Surface Matter (Sustainability 1/5)
For part 1 of our sustainability series, we dropped by to chat to ‘Surface Matter’, a cutting edge material supplier who pride themselves on working with some of the most exciting sustainable materials out there.
From Durat – vibrant terrazzo’s made from recycled plastic chips, to Skatelite, made from recycled paper and hard and durable enough for skating surfaces, Surface Matter’s sustainable materials register is truly remarkable (and just as beautiful). We sat down with Jade from Surface Matter to understand more about how the company is thinking about sustainability.
FR: What does sustainability mean to you?
Jade: It’s a must – it should be at the forefront of design, and not just design but across other things.
FR: You’re right, I guess its sometimes just thought of as this additional thing that’s nice to have and not as a necessity.
Jade: Yeah for sure. It’s also a good way to make people become more creative, pushing boundaries with how we can utilise waste. For example with ‘mother of pearl‘ they’ve taken polycarbonate waste and stretched it like taffy to create these pieces that are so beautiful and opulent – and that wouldn’t have been developed if they hadn’t thought sustainability was important.
FR: That’s an interesting way to look at it – that it’s almost a driver for innovation. How has working with sustainable materials changed your notion of what sustainability is?
Jade: I think it’s educated me a lot, from how much waste there is to what kind of waste there is. There’s so much to know and to understand that I’ve never considered.
“Sustainability is a good way to make people become more creative, pushing boundaries with how we can utilise waste.”
FR: Yeah, we’re such a wasteful society – I guess there’s so many different types of waste produced…What’s the most surprising waste material you’ve come across at Surface Matter?
Jade: Richlite is a cool one because its recycled paper, and made into this really hard wearing material – to make something so flimsy into something so durable is amazing.
FR: How would you define a sustainable material?
Jade: I think there’s lots of definitions – being recyclable, or circular, or re-usable – like with Durat, they can take the old Durat and then break it down and make it into new Durat – its truly circular in that it’s constantly going round.
“They can take the old Durat and then break it down and make it into new Durat – its truly circular in that it’s constantly going round.”
(Video Credit: Durat, Surface Matter)
FR: Its so true – all these materials seem to be so beautiful and also so durable – there seems to be no trade off. Why do you think not everyone uses sustainable materials?
Jade: Sometimes it can be price, sometimes it can be performance issues – plastic based materials sometimes aren’t the best with heat which could be an issue in, kitchen based applications for example.
FR: I guess you could say some of these materials can be ‘higher maintenance’.
Jade: Yeah, exactly. There’s not a sustainable alternative for every material and application yet.
FR: What do you think could change in the industry to make more people use sustainable materials more? Is it price, or is it people not knowing they exist?
Jade: I guess another blocker to widespread use is they’re not always for the masses. With the materials we work with they are somewhat handmade there’s a lot of steps that go into making it. With something like Mother of Pearl, and Durat that allows them to be so customisable.
“To make something so durable, out of something so flimsy, is incredible.”
FR: Yeah it reminds me that the care and intention taken to make these materials is the opposite of mindless construction. I guess using these materials is kind of the ‘buy less buy better ethos’ applied to build projects. What sustainable technology do you think would have the most potential for the future, or are you most excited about?
Jade: I think a sustainable bonding material – like a sustainable resin that can do it on a bigger scale and not just 10%. It would be cool to see something really durable that can do that and hold its own.
FR: What motivates you to work in the sustainable world?
Jade: I like being creative and also doing good at the same time. I find this industry is a combination of both.
FR: Whats a sustainable project that has inspired you recently?
There’s a half pipe in North Yorkshire – there was 2 left in the UK and it’s been renovated with Skatelite, and it’s been so successful and had worldwide press and attention. People travel from all over to visit it, and it’s been huge in the skate world. It’s been great to see a community project get that level of attention.
“I guess using these materials is kind of the ‘buy less buy better ethos’ applied to construction”
We specify sustainable options like Richlite and Durat as a primary option for all of our projects at Formroom.
You can explore all the materials Surface Matter supplies here.
(All image credits: Richlite, Plasticiet, Durat & Surface Matter).