Where Trash Becomes Treasure

What is durable, malleable, and comes in every conceivable colour, pattern, and texture? Norwegian beach plastic, that’s what. This free, short-distance and sadly plentiful, resource became the ideal springboard for an innovative and beautiful collection of interior objects and the beginnings of design studio, Norwegian Trash. Sindre Fosse Rosness and his team at Norwegian Trash design products as catalysts for conversations. Conversations around our perceptions of what is waste and what is a resource and how design can accelerate our transition towards a more sustainable and circular future.  We were delighted to meet Sindre and to be immersed in his extraordinary work and passion so we can share them with you too.     

NTS: What is Norwegian Trash?

Norwegian Trash is a material and product design studio that uses design to keep waste in a loop. We are constantly evolving with each new project, so this definition may change in the next few months.

NTS: Why a focus on marine waste?

In 2018 we were a group of friends and colleagues visiting the Nordic Ocean Watch plastic silo. Built in an abandoned grain silo on the west coast of Norway, volunteers have filled the silo with four tonnes of hand-picked and meticulously sorted plastic trash found on one tiny, idyllic surf spot. When finding out that this plastic would be shipped abroad to be incinerated for energy, we thought that we could do better. We believed this marine waste should become a resource, rather than just trash. The idea was to make “conversation starters”, interior objects that would spark conversations about the health of the oceans. 

After getting friends to build a couple of machines based on the Precious Plastic principle, we started experimenting. We quickly learned that plastic in general, and especially hand-picked ocean plastic, is a very complex material with lots of limitations regarding safety, production techniques and scalability. That’s why we’re now using all kinds of plastic trash, from Norwegian fishing nets to cd covers, and not just hand-picked ocean plastic.

NTS: How did you come to be doing what you do?

In a way, Norwegian Trash is a mix of my two biggest passions, namely design and nature. Through hiking and climbing actively since I was 13 years old, I have gained a deep love for nature. The last couple of years, I have also felt the need to work against the destruction of nature. Educated as an art director, design and communication were the tools I had at hand. I used these tools to build Norwegian Trash. 

NTS: What motivates you to do what you do? 

I find the actual physical reality of collecting, sorting and re-melting trash highly motivating, especially when we have projects that transform multiple tonnes of trash into lasting products. Having worked a lot with communications design and digital products, it’s nice to be in the physical realm where things last a long time. I also enjoy solving problems using my hands.

I am also inspired by all the hard-working people all over the globe that work towards a system where resources flow perpetually in a closed loop. There is something very elegant about this system.

NTS: You recently designed an ingenious and impactful system and product for a local tobacco company in Norway. Can you tell us about it?  

In Norway, over 80 million plastic snus boxes (“snus” is a highly popular scandinavian tobacco) are thrown away each year. Most of the boxes are burned for energy through local municipalities, but a lot also end up in streets, rivers, and oceans. Project 448C is the tobacco producer Swedish Match and Norwegian Trash’ way of trying to change the perception from plastic packaging being trash, to it being seen as a valuable resource. In this way, we hope that fewer boxes will drop out of the loop.

Through collection points around Norway, people can put their used snuff boxes and in return get a “cash back” that is donated to beach cleaning organisations. The snuff boxes are then shipped north towards the middle of Norway, to be shredded and re-melted into furniture.

We also made a frisbee from the same snuff boxes – this was our first experiment in uncovering the potential of snuff boxes used in plastic production. Showing promising results, we’re now upscaling to furniture.

NTS: What else are you currently working on (that you can talk about!)?

We are currently exploring alternative ways of processing trash, especially working with 3D printed materials. We are in the final stage of prototyping a series of lamps made from take out boxes and recycled, local aluminium. 3D printing is a whole new way of working than we’re used to, and think it shows huge potential, especially in terms of distributed production.

NTS: Your products are so beautiful. Will we be able to get our hands on them from far flung Australia and other locations outside of Norway any time soon? 

Thank you! I’m not convinced that shipping our products around the world by plane is a great idea in terms of total footprint. But we are discussing having some sort of distributed production through the Precious Plastic community – why not let someone make our products locally in the countries they are sold, as Australian Trash? 

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NTS: Tell us about the Precious Plastic community…

The Precious Plastic community is an open, free and thriving community of passionate people all over the world, taking a broken recycling system into their own hands to try to do better. 

NTS: What is your vision with Norwegian Trash? What do you hope to achieve?

I hope (and actively work to) to inspire other designers to seriously reconsider their methods, materials and parameters and push hard towards a circular economy with a lower footprint. 80% of a product’s CO2 footprint is set in the design phase – I think most designers are not aware of their influence and potential for contributing to actual green change.