02. Sep 2021
Herman Miller has announced that its entire portfolio of Aeron Chairs will contain ocean-bound plastic. The company has also added a new color, Onyx Ultra Matte, to the collection which contains up to 1.13 kg of mismanaged plastic waste found near waterways per chair.
These material changes in the Aeron Portfolio are projected to save over 150 tons of plastic annually - equal to approximately 15 million single-use plastic water bottles - ending up in the ocean.
The updates are part of Herman Miller’s membership in NextWave Plastics, its ongoing commitment to sustainability, and long-term goal to increase recycled content to at least 50% including the use of ocean-bound plastic across all material the company uses by 2030.
Aeron is the latest in a growing list of products Herman Miller has reengineered using ocean-bound plastic. The effort also includes parts of the recently launched OE1 Workplace Collection, the Sayl Chair in Europe, utility trays as part of pedestal units, and its latest textile collection, Revenio, which is made of 100% recycled materials and includes a biodegradable polyester. The company is also reducing its footprint by adding ocean-bound plastic to returnable shipping crates that send seating parts to and from suppliers and poly bags used to keep products safe during transit.
Ocean-bound plastic is plastic material that has not yet found its way into the ocean and is classified as “mismanaged waste.” That is, plastic that is not being collected, is unlikely to be collected, and found within 50 kilometers of a coastline. Common examples of ocean-bound plastic include plastic bottles, jugs, caps, and fishing gear.
When plastic waste builds up in coastal cities, suppliers work with local pickers to collect the plastic. Once collected, the material is ground, washed, and pelletized. From there, it is sold to manufacturers who test and re-engineer the plastic to incorporate into products.
“On our current trajectory we are at risk of tripling the rate of new plastic entering the ocean every year. A critical strategy to disrupt that path is to demonstrate the value of ocean-bound plastic. In bringing the Aeron chair made with ocean-bound plastic to market, Herman Miller is not only proving the commercial value of the material, but showcasing the power of collective action in developing ocean-bound plastic supply chains,” said Dune Ives, CEO of Lonely Whale.
“Herman Miller, and all members of the NextWave Plastics consortium, are taking the necessary action - today - to make a positive impact for the ocean and for us all.”
The plastic used in Aeron is currently sourced from India and Indonesia, which are two of many locations where Herman Miller and other NextWave member companies are creating demand and establishing a supply chain for this material. By sourcing ocean-bound plastic from these areas, the companies are making both economic and social impact by supporting local communities and employing individuals who make a living collecting mismanaged waste near the shoreline.
“We’re doing more than making an environmental impact,” said Bob Teasley, Director of Supply Management at Herman Miller. “By working with coastal communities around the world to harvest ocean-bound plastic, we’re increasing demand, creating jobs, and boosting economies.”
The Aeron chair was introduced nearly 30 years ago. Designed by Bill Stumpf and Don Chadwick in 1994 and remastered in 2016. It is Herman Miller’s top selling seating solution and has received a variety of awards and recognition including the Good Design Award (GDA) from the Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design, FIRA (Furniture Industry Research Association) award, the IDSA Designs of the Decade award, and is part of the permanent collection of MOMA. It was also the company’s first product to receive the industry-leading Cradle to Cradle V3 Silver Level certification, assessed on environmental and social performance.
Depending on configuration, the ocean-bound plastic in Aeron can be found in the frame and tilt covers of the chair and contains between 0.5 and 2.5 pounds (226.8 g and 1.13 kg) of the material per chair, equivalent to approximately 23 to 114 plastic water bottles. The new Onyx Ultra Matte colorway contains the highest amount of ocean-bound plastic at almost 2.5 pounds (1.13 kg) per chair. All chairs within the Aeron Portfolio are up to 90% recyclable3 and composed of over 50% recycled content 2.