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Arper and PaperShell redefine sustainability in furniture design with ‘Catifa Carta’
Catifa Carta by Arper and PaperShell
Image: Salva Lopez

Arper and PaperShell redefine sustainability in furniture design with ‘Catifa Carta’

Catifa Carta is a chair crafted from innovative, eco-friendly materials prioritising circular design principles, complete disassembly and responsible business practices.

by Ria Jha
Published on : Jun 09, 2024

Imagine, if you will, a world wherein everything holds the possibility of rebirth, in this context, products that are living things with histories to honour and futures to promise, not just objects of fleeting utility. The philosophy behind product designs that are made to be reused, refurbished, or recycled follows a 'take-make-give back' pathway, also called circular design. This novel approach is focused on creating products that maximise resource efficiency, longevity, and sustainability. By considering the entire lifecycle of a product from the outset, product designers can reduce the depletion of natural resources, lower carbon footprints and promote a sustainable design system that supports ecological health and economic resilience. Products are made with natural, recyclable materials, modular and repairable parts with generations of foresight in their design. They are designed with the knowledge that they are a component of a continuous loop that replicates the cycles of the natural world. With a vision to craft a product that embraces a circular lifecycle, the global design brand Arper unveils Catifa Carta, a chair design inspired by innovation and respect for the environment. This creation features a reimagined shell, meticulously made from PaperShell, a novel material made from composite wood waste.

PaperShell imbues the chair with strength and comfort, essential to Catifa Carta's iconic, bi-curved silhouette. PaperShell significantly diminishes Catifa Carta’s environmental impact by mirroring the natural process of trees: sequestering carbon dioxide. At the end of its lifecycle, the material can be converted into biochar, effectively retaining the carbon dioxide captured during its earlier phases. Composed of 29 sheets of paper bonded with a natural resin binder, Catifa Carta is designed with sustainability in mind. At the end of its lifecycle, the chair can undergo pyrolysis—a burning process that occurs in the absence of oxygen, preventing the release of carbon dioxide. Managed by Stena, a leading European recycling company, this pyrolysis process ensures minimal environmental impact. By transforming the shells into biochar, which can be used as a soil enhancer, this process closes the loop and further contributes to environmental sustainability. “The key contributions of this project to mitigating emissions are two: the avoidance of fossil carbon usage for plastic production through material substitution and the capability to sequester carbon dioxide and store it in the ground. Another important aspect to take into consideration is the avoidance of emissions generated by the traditional production of soil amendment products,” shares team Arper.

An improved version of the Catifa 53, which has been a beloved chair since its 2001 launch, is the Catifa Carta. Arper's dedication to sustainability is highlighted by the reintroduction of this significant collection made possible by PaperShell. Catifa Carta maintains the same high degree of comfort due to the Catifa 53's well-known form, which is praised for its soft curves that offer support and comfort. The creation of the curved shell for Catifa Carta posed the challenge of developing a solution that was both sustainable and robust. Arper, in collaboration with PaperShell, spent two years refining and enhancing the shell to meet these requirements. Unlike other moulded chairs that rely on chemical resins and binders, PaperShell uses a bio-based resin, resulting in a product that is both durable and comfortable. The shell is formed by pressing 29 layers of paper together with the binder under immense pressure, creating a unique Catifa shape. After moulding, the excess layers of paper are meticulously trimmed. Additionally, no extra colourants are added to the furniture design during the process; the hue of Catifa Carta comes exclusively from the moulding pressure.

Elaborating on the complete disassembly of Catifa Carta, team Arper explains, “As with all Arper products, craftsmanship and quality are of the highest importance and our furniture is built to last. With Catifa Carta, we have taken into deeper consideration what end-of-life might look like with a new material.” Disassembly is an important factor to take into account for a product's maintenance and end-of-life phases. Materials need to be simple to disassemble for recycling, repair, or replacement to be effective. The benefits of each component's sustainability diminish if this is not handled comprehensively. Additionally, end users need the ability and access to maintain these pieces effectively. “It’s always a balance to manage these things, but we continue to push ourselves to create products that are beautiful, useful and also practical to deal with at their end of life. The fact that we have given so much importance to the end-of-life aspect in the development of the product already makes it a central theme for the way we want to secure a recycling process that not only works theoretically,” the furniture designers add.

This complete disassembly process begins with ensuring that clients have to sign a contract during purchase as an agreement for when they decide to return it for recycling along with that they are also informed about the disassembly feature of the Catifa Carta chair. This aspect is fundamental to the narrative of what both the PaperShell material and this chair represent. It also entails establishing a comprehensive and efficient system capable of managing recycling logistics and the pyrolysis process globally. Although future developments may influence the business model, there is a commitment to establishing effective handling processes from the outset. The project's emphasis on managing substantial volumes highlights its capacity to generate a significant positive influence on the environment, extending beyond meeting client expectations. Through its attributes such as form, function, quality, price and sustainability, it seeks to instigate a fundamental change towards attaining a carbon-negative footprint in absolute figures, rather than just in relative terms. This assurance calls for readiness to expand production and related processes to handle increased volumes efficiently.

While ‘sustainability’ is crucial and growing in importance, Arper finds it sometimes inadequate to encapsulate its aspirations fully. ‘Responsibility’ provides a broader viewpoint on the company's future trajectory, encompassing its goals both as a business entity and as individuals, helping the brand to evolve into a premier model of responsible business conduct. “We have outlined three pillars on which our responsibility plan is based, improving people's quality of life, starting the transition to a circular economy and reducing our environmental impact. Each of these pillars is embodied in projects, which we have initiated and plan to build upon in the coming years,” team Arper shares.

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