Herman Miller redesigned the Aeron chair with ocean-bound plastic

When it was first introduced in 1994, Herman Miller Inc.’s Aeron Chair was a groundbreaking product in the office furniture industry.

Designed by Bill Stumpf and Don Chadwick to create a chair that would suit a wide variety of body types, the chair is still the best-selling item in Herman Miller’s work chair collection, an icon that instantly changed the look of high quality office furniture by eliminating it of foam and fabric.

Now the Zeeland, Michigan-based company has given Aeron an ecological touch by switching production to the use of ocean-bound plastic.

The entire line of Aeron chairs will now be available with recycled content, made from what the company calls “Treated Plastic Waste”.

The decision is in line with the company’s commitment to 50 percent recycled content in all materials by 2030, and logically follows from its membership in NextWave Plastics, an industry-leading open source collaboration between leading technology companies and consumer brands to develop the first global network of ocean-bound plastic supply chains.

“An estimated 8 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean every year. That’s roughly the equivalent of emptying a garbage truck full of plastic every minute, ”said Gabe Wing, director of sustainability at Herman Miller, in a September 1 release. “We joined NextWave to play an active role in addressing the plastic problem in the oceans and … strive to continue doing our part in bringing harmful plastic into our oceans by adding it to the iconic Aeron Chair.”

Herman Miller has used ocean-bound plastic in other products, but the Aeron is the switch with the highest profile.

The effort also includes parts of the recently launched OE1 Workplace Collection, the Sayl Chair in Europe, utility trays and the latest Revenio textile collection, which is made from 100 percent recycled materials and contains a biodegradable polyester. The company is also reducing its footprint by adding ocean-bound plastic to reusable shipping boxes that ship seat parts to and from suppliers, and poly bags that are used to protect products in transit.

The company said changing the Aeron portfolio alone is expected to save 150 tons of plastic from entering the oceans each year, which equates to about 15 million single-use plastic water bottles. Overall, the company estimates that it will remove more than 250 tons of plastic from the ocean annually.

Ocean-bound plastic is plastic that has not yet found its way into the ocean, but is likely to end there, and includes material found within about 30 miles of a coastline. Common examples of plastic bound in the ocean are plastic bottles, jugs, caps and fishing gear.

The plastic used in Aeron is currently sourced from India and Indonesia, two of the locations where Herman Miller and other NextWave member companies are generating demand and building a supply chain for this material.

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