‘In essence, a sofa is a difficult product to manufacture in a circular way’

‘In essence, a sofa is a difficult product to manufacture in a circular way’

About Circular product development - 95% RECYCLED

We give tangible form to sustainability by means of a circular economy. A comprehensive working method that Gispen has adopted as its leading corporate philosophy. You can read our 'Gispen circular 2025' vison here. But what does this really mean to us? Have we figured out how it all works yet? Well I, Sarah Schiffer - Product & Concept manager at Gispen, can be very brief about this.. No. But, what we do know is that sharing knowledge is a vital part of creating a circular economy.


There is nothing as exciting as transforming an existing product into a perfect circular product. So sustainable and clever that you would not believe! The same philosophy has been applied to the development of our Sett sofa. Where did our journey begin? You can read it here.

The product manager

It is my ambition to develop into an independent and flexible Product & Concept manager for Gispen. I find beauty in surprise and concept, and I want to stay true to that. My challenge for the moment is to create a sustainable Design Collection. A great quest I would like to share with you.

‘I find beauty in surprise and concept, and I want to stay true to that’

Sarah Schiffer Product & Concept manager

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Where it all started

It all started with an initiative by Searious Business [From plastic to sofa, Photo 1.] that involves the manufacturing of premium plastic products from waste. Gispen accepted the challenge and joined the Culemborg Circulair collective. The companies that have joined the collective are all from Culemborg and are committed to find new ways to reuse, recycle and avoid using plastics. We also redesign products and processes so that we can reduce plastic waste production. Joining in on this was an obvious step to take. Within Gispen, we have started collecting plastic packaging materials and plastic residuals. Subsequently, TU Delft processed this mix of materials into a new granulate, a ‘new’ kind of raw material [Photo 3.]. Most promising attribute: usable as a material for the 3D printer [Photo 5.]. A very suitable material for the frame of our Sett sofa, for example [Photo 6.].

From plastic to sofa

Gispen Sett sofa

Why are we working on this particular product? Peter van de Water’s Sett sofa has been a successful Gispen product for three years now. The original design has a wooden frame to which new foam is glued. The sofa is then finished with a fabric cover, which is stapled to the frame. The legs are made of steel and Nosag springs, which are also stapled on and made of steel, are incorporated into the seating area. The design is in essence a modular one, but the way the materials are being processed is quite old fashioned. Applying glue and stapling makes it difficult to separate materials and therefore prohibit them from being included in the closed loop of the circular economy. A challenge that needs tackling!

Model circulaire economie | Gispen

The challenge

In essence, a sofa is a difficult product to manufacture in a circular way. To give you an example: we always want to be comfortable when we sit, which explains why we apply lots of soft materials. Up until now, all sustainable alternatives to the traditional foam were not applicable for sofas. The current bio-based solutions wear a lot quicker than the traditional foam, resulting in a lifespan that is often shortened by more than 50%. Which is not sustainable, of course.

The challenge of solving the problem with the material and the construction was a considerable one. So considerable, in fact, that we thought: ‘if we can solve this then any product can become circular!’ That thought sparked an abundance of initiatives. It was not long before we came up with all kinds of alternatives to the current production process. The wooden frame has been replaced with recycled plastic from our own waste stream. Material that once formed a plastic tambour door from an old file cabinet, for example. What was once newly manufactured foam, is now a material that comes from recycled Auping mattresses. The steel Nosag springs are now fastened to the frame by means of a clever click-on system, eliminating the application of staples. The cover is made from recycled polyester. Now that Auping has joined in, the project has become a joint chain production, something you simply cannot realise on your own.

Gispen REMADE kast van oude META kast | Gispen

Early January 2017

In early January 2017, during the Beurs Facilitair, we presented the first ever sofa that is made from 95% recycled materials! The only components that are not a 100% recycled material (steel) are the legs. The Sett sofa we exhibited was only partly upholstered to show the crowd how it all fitted together, and the response was overwhelming.

The Design Framework

The result is innovative and sustainable.But how can we be so certain? It is for this very purpose that we apply the Design Framework during the design process? A tool for measuring the circularity of products by means of assessing the characteristics of a product in a range of categories. As it turned out, an originally manufactured Sett sofa scores 46 out of 100 per cent. The renewed and sustainably manufactured Sett sofa scores an impressive 77 per cent!

Design framework van 3D geprinte Sett bank | Gispen

Gispen Sett models

Provisional conclusion

A good score we were content with. But we weren’t there yet, a first concept is never perfect so we had our work cut out for us to get Sett fully ready for production. We still had some ideas up our sleeves though, which we are currently implementing. An entire project team has been put into place to continue with the development.

The first sketches have been presented. The first trials are being conducted and are looking positive. The best thing about this is that everyone is excited by the challenges we are faced. We celebrate every time we come up with a solution that is more sustainable than the original idea. There is nothing as exciting as making an entirely new and improved version of an existing product. So sustainable that you would not believe!

Schets voor toepassing 3D printer Sett bank | Gispen

The professional’s thoughts

'Gispen is in a transition. REUSE > LOSS PREVENTION > LESS WASTE PRODUCTION > Key words when we speak of a circular economy. I believe in these circular principles. I am convinced that well-designed pieces of furniture, both new and used, are the starting point for a sustainable interior. We aim to prolong the lifecycle of products and we firmly believe that we need to take responsibility, based on well-considered agreements and the right incentive to close material loops. There is much to be gained!'

Rick Veenendaal Manager circular economy

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