The Optimist Citizen

A designer duo is recycling plastic toys into sustainable children’s furniture

According to a data report published in Science Magazine, 8 million tonnes of plastic (3% of global annual plastic waste) entered the oceans in 2010. With the constantly increasing rate of the so-called “development”, this number is sure to have increased by now. Although plastic production is one of the pillars on which our modern industries stand, it may also very well be called the bane for our environment. What’s more troubling is that only 9% of all plastic ever made has likely been recycled. However, ecoBirdy stands as a bold challenger to this fact. 

Based in Belgium’s fashion and design capital, Antwerp, ecoBirdy was started by Vanessa Yuan and Joris Vanbriel with an aim to combat the overflowing plastic pollution with an unconventional weapon. ecoBirdy transforms old plastic toys into beautiful design furniture for kids through a rigorous process of recycling and upcycling. What’s interesting is that, that these pieces are also completely recyclable. The destined meeting between the co-founders, Vanessa Yuan and Joris Vanbriel happened ten years ago while working for international fashion and design studios. They started their own design studio Vanbriel Yuan Bvba in 2008 and today they proudly manage their own design brand, ecoBirdy.

When asked about how the idea came across their minds, Vanessa and Joris thoughtfully replied, “Social and environmental responsibility means a lot to us, both personally and professionally. After years of working in the design and fashion industry, we were questioning ourselves: are we making products that are environmentally friendly and can be recycled?”.  After initial brainstorming and mutual deliberation, the duo realized that plastic toys are massively popular consumer goods and these toys are quickly abandoned as children grow older. 

Hence, they came up with this brilliant idea of giving toys a new life by recycling toys to make sustainable children’s furniture. The duo started with the first collection of pieces which comprised of  – 

  1. Charlie, a chair with friendly, soft forms and rounded edges, light yet stable
  2. Luisa, a table which comes in a pair with Charlie and offers an equally simple and comfortable design
  3. Kiwi, a storage container designed with the intention of creating awareness towards the endangered Kiwi bird
  4. Rhino, a lamp aimed to raise awareness towards Rhino. 

ecoBirdy Products

ecoBirdy has created a system that goes from the collection and recycling of old, unused plastic toys to the design and production of furniture pieces. The collection of kids furniture pieces is entirely made of recycled plastic from European waste. Each step is based on social and environmental responsibility. Once the waste toy material is collected, ecoBirdy employs the use of a sheltered workshop in a first checkup of the collected plastic toys. The material is then transferred to a professional recycler where it is cleaned and sorted to ensure high quality and safe material for the production of the pieces.


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Since its inception, ecoBirdy has created a cycle of raising awareness, recycling and creating recyclable products. In addition to the recycled products, ecoBirdy publishes a storybook  ‘Journey to a New Life’, which tells the story of a plastic bush bike and inspires toddlers to reuse and recycle waste material and also tell their friends and parents about it. The organisation also runs a school program designed to introduce youngsters the concept of circular design and inspire them to contribute to a more sustainable future.ecoBirdy’s founders also deserve credit for being able to generate employment through their laudable human resource intensive approach towards production. Their innovative designs have also been heavily appreciated and awarded. ecoBirdy has received several international prizes for designing, including Australia Good Design Award, German Design Award and Henry van de Velde Award which is the most important prize for designing in Belgium. Also, museums and exhibitions worldwide have invited them to showcase their collection including V&A Childhood Museum, London.

In a constant stride to move forward, Vanessa’s and Joris’s long term goal is to make ecoBirdy a worldwide symbol for eco-friendly design. The impact of ecoBirdy has already been huge, and we sincerely hope that it inspires the new generation to adopt a sustainable lifestyle. 


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