Electrolux is unveiling five vacuum cleaners made from plastic waste collected from the world’s oceans. This marks the next phase of the Vac from the Sea initiative, launched by Electrolux earlier this year, with the aim of raising awareness about ocean plastic waste and inspiring consumers and industry to increase recycling efforts.
Each of the vacuum cleaner demos represents the ocean from which the plastic originates.
The Pacific Edition concept vacuum cleaner is made up of the drifting plastic grain that fills our oceans. The plastic has been bleached by the sun and corroded by salt water. This plastic grain is dangerous because it can easily be swallowed by fish and in turn continues through the whole food chain to both animals and humans.
Red/dark objects often attract birds, fish and other sea animals since they believe the plastic to be food. The plastic that remains in the sea and washes up on beaches is usually blue, green or white. Some of the recovered objects were covered with barnacles and annelid worms. Other objects had traces of bite marks from sharks.
The plastic gravel was poured into fiberglass moulds and covers the entire hood and the wheels. “When you see how small these plastic particles are, you start to grasp how difficult it to to remove this plastic from the world’s oceans,” says one of the researchers on the team. “It’s a wake-up call — this is one of the most important environmental issues of today.”
North Sea Edition
The plastic collected on the Bohuslän beaches in western Sweden consists largely of various rinse aid and detergent bottles, cans, plastic buckets, and all kinds of plastic packaging. The plastic has not been bleached in the same way as in the great oceans, but instead maintains its loud, strong colors. Much of the found plastic was also drenched in spill oil.
The plastic was washed clean and cut in pieces. The brightly colored pieces were then punched into circular tokens. The tokens were then applied onto a fiberglass weave and molded into the shape of the vacuum cleaner.
Most of the plastic collection from Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer is composed of plastic objects thrown or washed out to sea from the great beaches. PET-bottles, food containers, beverage cans and beach toys were all part of the mix. Tourism is the root of much of the litter in the Mediterranean Sea with tons of plastic contributed on a daily basis. Most of it remains in the sea forever because of slow plastic degradation.
The plastics were cut into heart shaped pieces and then attached to a thin shell of industrially recycled plastic. In order to form the plastic close to the vacuum cleaner the designers used hot air.
Indian Ocean Edition
The plastic from Thailand was collected from beaches, corals and the underwater seabed. It consists largely of fishing gear such as nets and plastic ropes. The divers had to cut the nets and plastic bags loose from the staghorn coral reef. There were also large chunks of styrofoam drifting in the waters and large amounts of household garbage, plastic bags, buckets, drink bottles and detergent containers.
The collected plastics were placed in a shredder and split into thin strips. The white and colored plastic strips were then mounted in a pattern that covers the entire top and wheels of the vacuum cleaner.
- Collection site: Sandhamn, Sweden; Gdansk, Poland; Ragaciems, Klapkalnciems, Latvia
- Method: Coastal cleanups with locals.
- Partners: Islanders, Sandhamn, Sweden; The Hel Marine Station, Poland; Pedas, Latvia.
For the Baltic Sea Edition concept vacuum cleaner, plastic was collected from three different sites in Poland, Sweden and Latvia. In Sweden, special Vac from the Sea-envelopes were distributed to people in the small harbor of Sandhamn in the Stockholm archipelago. The envelopes were filled with litter and sent to Electrolux.
In Poland, the collection was organized in cooperation with the Hel Marine Station, a field station part of the Institute of Oceanography at the University of Gdansk. Beach cleaning is part of its educational program, and a group of school children from a Slupsk elementary school helped to collect plastic on the Hel peninsula beaches.
The plastic litter from the three countries covers the vacuum cleaner. Different objects range from ice cream packaging to plastic bottles to flipflops to numerous bottle caps and beach toys. The recovered objects were mounted on a hood made of industrially recycled plastic and then heated with hot air – to follow the sleek contour of the Ultra One machine.
Plastic has just arrived at Electrolux Design Studio for construction.
All the models have been built using the same core structure (chassis, engine, and bag compartment) as the UltraOne Green-model.
Today, Electrolux offers Green Range vacuum cleaners with up to 70% post consumer recycled plastic. The ambition is to continue to increase the recycled plastic ratio.
“Our intention is to bring awareness to the situation and the need for better plastic karma,” says Cecilia Nord, Vice President – Floor Care Sustainability and Environmental Affairs, Electrolux. “So far, over 60 million people have been reached and we are continuing the initiative following the great response.”
Electrolux is looking into auctioning out one vac, where the revenue will go to research. At the moment, the quality and the logistics needed for cleaning and sorting ocean plastic make it difficult to use the recovered ocean plastic in mass production.
“Right now, only post consumer plastic on land meets our commercial safety and quality standards. However, as part of our commitment to researching new materials, we should explore how the ocean plastic might be used in the future, and one such step is to make a single concept vac that we can auction out,” concludes Cecilia Nord.
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