Emeco is synonymous with its 1006 Navy chair, a handsome seat of lightweight aluminum that the company introduced in 1944 for use at sea. And for decades the Navy was the manufacturer’s only product--that is, until Philippe Starck came along in 1998 to give it a much-needed brand refresh. That collaboration not only saved the business--the Hanover, Pennsylvania–based company was on the verge of going under--it gradually challenged Emeco to explore materials other than its signature aluminum. The latest in the Starck series: the Broom chair, made from an innovative mix of recycled plastic, glass, and sawdust (from whence it gets its name).
The Broom got its start back in 2001, when Starck conceived of a bucket chair with a curved aluminum seat and backrest embedded in a plastic frame, intended to add a more affordable version to Emeco’s existing catalog. But the costs of tooling and creating two molds--one for the plastic component, the other for the aluminum--led the company to mothball the idea. After partnering with Coke on the 111 chair, a revamp of the classic Navy made from recycled plastic bottles, the company set about finding another way to push the bounds of sustainability through the use of innovative materials. So Emeco’s director of product management, Magnus Breitling, began a quest for an eco-friendly substance made purely from waste, rather than from a food product such as corn. According to Metropolis, “It occurred to Breitling that using sawdust as a stiffening agent in combination with discarded offcuts of a suitable all-synthetic polymer would result in an almost entirely recycled product.”
Once Breitling figured out the recipe--75% reclaimed polypropylene, 15% reclaimed wood fiber, and 10% glass--the company revisited and tweaked Starck’s little bucket chair, widening the body and squaring off the legs. Emeco chose relatively muted colors to hint at its green nature, but more than that, the company emphasizes that, like its iconic Navy, the Broom is built to last and withstand changing trends, which, ultimately, is the true test of sustainable design.