When it was launched in 1994, Herman Miller Inc.'s Aeron Chair was a pioneering product in the office furniture industry.
Designed by Bill Stumpf and Don Chadwick to create a chair that would meet a wide range of different body types, the chair is still the top-selling item in Herman Miller's workchair collection, an instant icon that changed the look of high-end office furniture by eliminating foam and fabric.
Now the Zeeland, Mich.-based company has added an environmental twist to the Aeron by adopting production to use ocean-bound plastic.
The entire line of Aeron chairs will now be available with the recycled content sourced from what the company terms "mismanaged plastic waste."
The decision is in line with the company's commitment to use 50 percent recycled content in all materials by 2030 and follows logically from its membership of NextWave Plastics, an industry-led, open-source collaboration among leading technology companies and consumer brands to develop the first global network of ocean-bound plastics supply chains.
"Every year, an estimated 8 million tons of plastic enter the ocean. This is roughly equivalent to dumping a garbage truck full of plastic into the ocean every minute," Gabe Wing, Herman Miller's director of sustainability, said in a Sept. 1 news release. "We joined NextWave to play an active role in taking on the ocean plastic problem and … are eager to continue doing our part in preventing harmful plastic from reaching 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 highest-profile switch.
The effort also includes parts of the recently launched OE1 Workplace Collection, the Sayl Chair in Europe, utility trays and its latest textile collection, Revenio, which is made of 100 percent recycled materials and includes a biodegradable polyester. The company is also reducing its footprint by adding ocean-bound plastic to returnable shipping crates that send seating parts to and from suppliers and poly bags used to keep products safe during transit.
The company said the change in the Aeron portfolio alone is forecast to save 150 tons of plastic from entering the ocean each year, equal to approximately 15 million single-use plastic water bottles. Overall, the company estimates it will divert more than 250 tons of plastics from entering oceans annually.
Ocean-bound plastic is plastic material that has not yet found its way into the ocean but is likely to end up there and includes material found within about 30 miles of a coastline. Common examples of ocean-bound plastic include plastic bottles, jugs, caps and fishing gear.
The plastic used in Aeron is currently sourced from India and Indonesia, which are two of the locations where Herman Miller and other NextWave member companies are creating demand and establishing a supply chain for this material.