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Shaping a circular industrial ecosystem and supporting life-cycle thinking
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NEW EUROPEAN BAUHAUS RISING STARS: concepts or ideas submitted by young talents (aged 30 or less)
Project title
Full concept/idea title
The sustainable coffee table designed out of plastic tubing discarded from construction sites

VLEK is a sustainable coffee table designed out of the bright-colored leftovers from plastic tubing that are discarded from construction sites. It combines a playful and modern aesthetic with a straightforward technical design, while staying a local initiative. It could be described as either a piece of furniture, a circular statement and a boost for local creative communities and local circular economy.

What is the geographical scope of your concept/idea?
Does your concept/idea address mainly urban or rural issues?
Mainly urban
Does your concept/idea refer to a physical transformation of the built environment or other types of transformations?
It refers to a physical transformation of the built environment ('hard investment')
Has your concept/idea benefited from EU programmes and/or funds?
Has your concept/idea won an EU prize?
How did you hear about the New European Bauhaus Prizes ?
Word of mouth (colleagues, friends …)
On whose behalf are you submitting the application?
As an individual
Please provide a summary of your concept/ idea

By recently starting as a junior architect in a firm in Ghent, Belgium, I witnessed a waste stream which is not only often overlooked, but is responsible for the 2nd most amount of waste (in weight) produced by any other sector in Belgium: construction waste. In fact, the amount of waste even doubled from 11 million tonnes to 22 million tonnes of waste in 2018.

VLEK focuses on a particular, yet often used and discarded plastic of the construction industry: tubing. Plastic tubes and pipes are almost inseparably linked with construction, primarily used in construction of technical systems in modern architecture. Shredding and thermoforming into something new makes these tubes easy to recycle, and they have appealing, vibrant colours used for colour coding. For example in heating, hot means red and blue means cold. Yet combined they could make a playful colour scheme for design purposes.

The design itself focuses on composing a simple aesthetic through a minimum of technical intervention. Without using any glue, the design implies that any component can be easily separated and added to its specific waste stream once VLEK’s life cycle ends. It is designed for disassembly, yet durable and robust to last as long as possible. The whole design can easily be assembled or disassembled by unscrewing a single bolt, using a single hex/allen key. Requiring just a single operation with a simple tool makes VLEK approachable to the common household.

The result is a coffee table that has a table top and foot made out of recycled plastic tubing. Over the pedestal fits a textile sleeve stitched from recycled yarn, which houses the structure of the table. Together they make a playful, asymmetrical design that helps reducing one of the biggest waste streams of Europe, while being an affordable and aesthetically pleasing piece of furniture.

Please indicate the main themes of your concept/idea with 5 key words
Sustainable and recycled coffee table
Plastic tubing
Low-threshold design
Design for disassembly (cradle-to-cradle)
Local construction waste
Please give information about the key objectives of your concept/idea in terms of environmental sustainability (including circularity) and how these would be met.
Please highlight how the concept/idea can be exemplary in this context

With Belgium’s rapidly growing housing needs and building culture, the growth in construction waste is not set to slow down anytime soon. In the whole of EU, the total figure grosses to a staggering 450 million tonnes. To make matters worse, three quarters of all this goes straight to landfill.

In construction, plastics are commonly used for technical purposes. Ventilation, heating, electricity… all use plastic tubing to connect technical installations. When thrown away, this adds up to a considerable amount of the total waste stream that is construction waste. Pieces of tubing that are too short for further usage, damaged electrical casings could easily be recycled. When it comes to plastics in general, 25 million tonnes is being discarded annually, a number which is set to be doubled by 2030. Again, only 30% of that number is being recycled.

VLEK provides a local framework for these plastics, and other construction waste in general. The core of the table is made out of any cutoffs of sheet material, and the textile surrounding the core structure is a piece of fabric made out of recycled textile.

Also, by unscrewing the central bolt, the whole design can be dismantled and recycled again after VLEK reaches the end of its own lifecycle, which makes the design cradle-to-cradle.

Please give information about the key objectives of your concept/idea in terms of aesthetics and quality of experience beyond functionality and how these would be met.
Please highlight how the concept/idea can be exemplary in this context

The aesthetics of VLEK are very straightforward, by combining vibrant VLEKs used in the technical departments. Combining these technical colours in a precise manner generates a pattern that consists of colours that were initially purely functional, but are now being percieved as an element of design and creativity. It even provides a transparent insight into recycled plastics, while provoking an awareness of the endless possibilities of circularity through a minimum of effort and resources.

Please give information about the key objectives of your concept/idea in terms of inclusion (equal opportunities, public participation, citizen engagement, co-design, universal design, accessibility, affordability, etc.) and how these would be met.
Please highlight how the concept/idea can be exemplary in this context

This low-threshold approach to the design brings about a flatpack packaging, which streamlines transportation, delivery or retail in general. This approach incites the user to easily interchange any component - should it ever need repairing - instead of discarding the whole design.

By collaborating with local technicians, contractors and architects, VLEK offers an affordable design which uses local plastics leftovers through a minimum of effort. By keeping the production process rather artisanal than industrial, my role is to act as a local craftsman and designer, rather than a salesman of an industrially conceived product. This approach is similar to the business model of Wolvis ( , a local sustainable design brand I hold in high regard.

Creating a local network would also implies a very transparent approach to meeting the customer in the process: there is a full disclosure in how VLEK is made, transported, sold and even recycled again. The core concept of the product is very easy to be gripped and understood by a second life aware audience.

Also, by collaborating with local initiatives and population, the design itself evolves in continued cycles of improvement and redesign. VLEK is an endless improving product, fed by evaluation and feedback by peers.

Please explain how these three dimensions would be combined in your concept/idea.
Please highlight how this approach can be exemplary

VLEK combines a playful and modern aesthetic with a straightforward technical design, while staying a local initiative. It could be described as either a piece of furniture, a circular statement and a boost for local creative communities and local circular economy.

Please highlight the innovative character of the concept/idea as compared to mainstream practices in the field of the concept/idea.

A construction site commonly is a highly fast-paced environment. Manual labor, stressed-out contractors, pressuring deadlines… create an atmosphere which encaptures and drives those involved to a shelter and a home, which is creating a building out of nothing. It requires a lot of resources, yet in the rush of the build no-one is concerned with by-products, excess or leftovers that are being discarded to develop said construction. Large containers at construction sites are filled with mixed garbage without sorting, or without considering what might happen with it in a further life. A lot of decisions and consequences with what happens next to waste are being made at the source, whether we separate our rubbish is an important step of the whole recycling process. 

In Belgium, there are already a handful of local initiatives like OPALIS, Ecowerf, Buurman, ROTOR… which goal is to precisely collect and demolish used building components, and re-use them in new designs. While these initiatives focus on giving specific components a second life, I aim to re-use raw materials that are thrown away on site, such as polymers/plastics. In recent years I have gained an interest in polymers like HDPE, PP… and its usage, with it being easy to shred and thermoform into new objects.

There is already a wide variety of furniture made from plastic waste, like Dirk Van Der Kooij’s coffee tables. VLEK however focuses on a particular waste stream, thus relying on the same colours and tubes to make a consistent product. The textile pedestal also provides a softer appearance in contrast to the smooth, industrial plastic. Also, by being designed for disassembly all parts can easily be replaced or recycled again, while it can be transported as a flatpack.

Please detail the general plans that you have for the further development, promotion and/or implementation of your concept/idea.


  • Testing out a full scale model
  • Material and pattern research (both plastic and textile)

Collaborating/reaching out

After making a working prototype, I would want to observe, learn and study from existing companies and industry on how I could streamline the production process of VLEK:

  • Material research: the SDG group (the Innologic branch in particular) are a nearby sustainability company, and they make it their goal to research and reverse engineer thermoplastics waste. Afterwards they research and develop techniques and methods to prototype new circular products out of re-used plastics.
  • Waste stream processing: Collaborating with local waste processors such as Van Werven, who have high-end plastic waste processing plants. They could provide the first step in a manufacturing process through cleaning and shredding plastics.
  • Waste collection: Local building waste companies such as Renewi, or even construction material companies such as Gedimat could help with both collecting discarded tubing and creating awareness on construction sites.
  • Textile research: Local initiatives like Collectief Textiel specialize in weaving and sewing recycled yarn and fabric. While I have some experience in furniture and plastics, I could use some help with designing the fabric sleeve that goes around the pedestal.


The final step of this circular loop is the promotion of VLEK into the retail market. I could use local companies, specialised in durable, sustainable  and second life products to promote VLEK.

In addition, the communication package, offered in this contest, could help me tremendously in boosting VLEK. As a designer I have little knowledge about retail and marketing, therefore I would love to take advice from people who have.

Imagine that your idea/concept is awarded in the New European Bauhaus Prizes 2022. What kind of initiatives would you take throughout the following year (June 2022- June 2023)

If I would be awarded with VLEK, I would start by using the prize earnings to start a local workshop with a set of tools and hardware to work with re-used plastics. I have gained a very big interest in (circular) design over the recent years, and have always had the opportunity to use workspaces of friends and colleagues. But in time, I would love an own space where my experiments, creativity and crafts could be developed. The workspace could serve as a place where the local community could learn and get in touch with crafting.

More importantly, in this studio/workshop, circular projects such as VLEK could arise, which would be the first main objective as mentioned in the previous question.

By ticking this box, you declare that you are not in in one or more of the exclusion situations foreseen under Article 136 of the Financial Regulation.
By ticking this box, you declare that all the information provided in this form is factually correct, that you assume sole liability in the event of a claim relating to the activities carried out in the framework of the contest, that the proposed concept/idea has not been proposed for the New European Bauhaus Prizes 2022 in any other category or strand and that it has not been subject to any type of investigation, which could lead to a financial correction because of irregularities or fraud.
By submitting your application, you guarantee that you are the author or have the rights to proceed with the application and to authorise the use of the project, concept, idea, and that you have obtained any necessary consents, licenses or assignments from third parties and included copyright notices when necessary.
By submitting your application, you understand that all the applications that meet the eligibility requirements will be shared for the purposes of the selection processes, and notably published on the secured platform and for the purposes of the promotion of these on the New European Bauhaus website and/or other European Commission communication channels. In this sense, the applications would be widely available. Applicants should ensure that they present their ideas, concepts, projects, in such a way that they could be shared without giving rise to intellectual property related concerns. If your submission is selected as one of the finalists, it will additionally be shared for the purpose of the public vote that will take place. The European Union is granted a licence to use and share your application with the general public and the official external experts for the purposes of the selection process, including the voting. The European Union has the right to use the images and visual materials and the description provided in the application for communication purposes related to the contest and beyond. Rights granted comprise the right to store, reproduce, display, publish and communicate or distribute copies in electronic or digital format, including, but not only, through the internet. Unless you have disclosed your name, the European Commission has no obligation to share your name when using or disseminating your contribution to the public. The European Union cannot be held responsible in case any submitted idea, project, concept is found to infringe third parties rights. The European Union shall be neither responsible for the use that third parties may do of the applications or related content.


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