6 Aesthetic Ways to Incorporate Recycled Building Materials

By Yuhan Ma Published on Jul. 17, 2023

Sustainable design has become an increasingly popular concept in the architecture and interior design industries. Sustainable design is a design approach that considers the environmental, economic, and social impact of a building or space. This practice typically involves using recycled building materials or renewable resources, conserving energy and water, and limiting waste production. According to SeedScientific, the global market for green building materials is projected to reach $433bn by 2024.

Sustainable design is a powerful tool to help create a healthier, more eco-friendly future. By incorporating recycled building materials and renewable resources, sustainable building design significantly reduces the energy used during construction and operation compared to conventional buildings. Furthermore, using sustainable materials can reduce air and water pollution associated with producing nonrenewable building materials. With sustainable building design, architects and designers can create a beautiful, functional space while reducing their environmental footprint and creating a circular economy. Learn more about circular economy in this video:

Recycled building materials play a significant role in sustainable designs. With the right choice of material and a smart design, things once considered "waste" are given a second (and sometimes more visually appealing) life.

Inspiring projects: how recycled building materials are turned into stunning designs

  • Container City


Container City, located in London, is two pieces of shipping container architecture. It's a unique and innovative architectural project that has transformed sustainable building design. Built entirely from recycled shipping containers, Container City has emerged as an example of how unconventional materials can be transformed into stunning, functional spaces. By repurposing discarded shipping containers that have reached the end of their lifespan, the project showcases the potential of recycling in the realm of architecture and construction.

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Most of the space in Container City has been utilized by the public and private sectors for purposes like classrooms, offices, sports halls, nurseries, community centers, studios, and more.

The name "Container City" is a trademark of Urban Space Management. The company has now completed more than 15 projects utilizing the technique. The projects are suited to short- and medium-term land use. The containers can be reused elsewhere once the land becomes required for other uses.


  • Ningbo History Museum

Ningbo History Museum is a 30,000 sq2 building in the city of Ningbo in Zhejiang Province, China. The unique front of the building is made mostly of fragments and debris gathered from the nearby region, where traditional Chinese villages


were demolished to build modern structures. The museum designer, Wang Shu, said he wanted to use the recycled materials to keep some memories for people living in the region.

Another sustainable material, bamboo, is also used in building the museum. Wang used bamboo molds to cast the concrete, in which way he created a relation to tradition through the use of traditional recycled materials.

  • Zero Waste Bistro Restaurant

Zero Waste Bistro was a pop-up restaurant set up at the WantedDesign Manhattan Fair in 2018. The restaurant was built from recycled food packaging and composted all its leftovers.

The panels of the restaurant were made from recycled Tetra Pak - carton packages used for food and beverages. Their color varied based on what product was being processed at the time. At a distance, the restaurant's panels appeared to have a silver-blue hue. It showcased how recycled building materials could be applied to visually-appealing interior design. The designer, Linda Bergroth, also chose a fully-recyclable material made from recycled plastics for the trays that carried the dishes.

Challenges and considerations: finding the best approach to incorporating sustainable materials

When incorporating recycled building materials into sustainable design, it is critical to consider the cost of the material and its availability. The availability of specific recycled materials may vary depending on location and local recycling infrastructure. Establishing connections with suppliers, salvage yards, and recycling centers can help maintain a steady supply.

Additionally, it is important to determine if a given material meets safety requirements and confirm that construction plans are in line with local building codes. To make sure that the recycled building materials are being used correctly, it's crucial to seek guidance from local authorities and ensure compliance with relevant codes, standards, and safety regulations.

Designers also need to be aware of any potential compatibility issues, as they can impact the overall integrity and aesthetics of the design. They must assess the compatibility of recycled building materials with other materials in terms of adhesives, sealants, or finishes. This is a crucial step to ensure proper installation and long-term performance.

Finally, recycled building materials may have specific maintenance and care requirements. These requirements should be taken into consideration when choosing the right material and deciding on design strategies.

Innovations in sustainable materials within the Plug and Play ecosystem

  • Yardbird

Yardbird aims to bring the consumer beautiful, high-quality, sustainable patio and outdoor furniture. The startup incorporates ocean-bound plastic into its hand-woven wicker, a material used for many of its products. It also claims that the majority of its furniture can be recycled at the end of its life.

In addition, the company uses recyclable and biodegradable packaging materials as much as possible to reduce production waste.

  • Miniwiz


Miniwiz is a Taiwan-based company that focuses on engineering, design, manufacturing, and product marketing by upcycling consumer trash and industrial waste. Its architecture textile, architecture panels, furniture, and fixture are all made of textile waste and post-consumer rPET water bottles. Its architecture decking is made of wood waste and recycled single-use plastic. Miniwiz's sustainable materials are also designed with elegance, elevating the building aesthetics while reducing carbon footprint during construction. The image to the right shows the Jackie Chan Shanghai Office, one of the startup's projects using recycled materials for interior design.


  • Sustonable

Sustonable is a sustainable material with a thin, ultra-lightweight surface made with natural stone and recycled PET plastic. The startup claims to protect the exhaustion of natural resources eliminating the need for natural stone by 80%.

The applications of the material include kitchen countertops, backsplashes, worktops, wall panels, tabletops, bars, shower panels, and more. The startup offers various options for colors to accommodate modern and elegant interior design.

As the industry steers toward its net-zero goal, sustainable design and the use of recycled building materials will become more essential in the architecture and interior design sector. While incorporating recycled building materials presents challenges, such as sourcing, quality assessment, compatibility, and compliance with regulations, these obstacles can be overcome with proper planning and research. The growing market for green building materials further supports the viability and importance of sustainable design.

Moreover, inspiring projects have showcased a variety of types of recycled materials and their potential to accommodate functional and stunning designs. Recycled building materials and other sustainable materials will play a significant role in our built environment, where beauty, functionality, and environmental responsibility coexist harmoniously.

At Plug and Play, we fast-track innovation in Sustainability, New Materials & Packaging, and Real Estate & Construction. Join our platform today to meet the latest game-changers.