Friday, 9 April 2010

Richard Liddle, the sustainable designer

Richard Liddle, 32, is a designer whose RD (Roughly Drawn) Legs chair, made from 100 per cent plastic waste, was shortlisted in the innovation category for the V&A Design Awards last year.

By Jessica SalterPublished: 7:00AM BST 08 Apr 2010

He set up Cohda Design ( in 2006 and has worked on projects for clients including the UK Design Council and Tom Dixon. An experimental chair, the RD21, is on display at Plus Design in Milan (
"My father made the early mistake of giving me a tool kit when I was 10. Once I learnt how to take out a screw I started disassembling everything from video recorders to egg whisks. It was quite expensive for my parents to replace everything I had taken apart.

My interest in recycling came about 10 years ago when I was trying to get rid of my fridge. The council wouldn’t take it so I strapped it to the roof of my car and drove it to the recycling plant. When I got there I saw about three football fields full of white goods that nobody could do anything with.
We’re sweeping our waste under the carpet. Britain is running out of dumping ground and we’re shipping our waste to other countries like China. The energy used in shipping all this around is enormous.
When I started looking into sustainable design I found recycled wood panels and plastic sheeting, but you’re limited in what you can produce from them. So after studying design for a masters degree at Northumbria University I spent two years researching domestic packaging waste at the Royal College of Art.
The RD Legs are chairs hand-woven from domestic plastic waste. We grind down plastics, melt them and work with the molten plastic at temperatures of about 230C. As it cools it fuses together so there is no need for glue or fixings.
I’m not saying the RD chair will solve the world’s plastic problems but it has made a slight dent in the waste mountain. At the moment they are individually made, but I’m teaming up with a Japanese company to put them into mass production by the end of the year, which will use up more of our waste plastics.
I wanted to design something that enables people without design skills or tools to create their own product. Our Revive Coffee Legs are like DIY clamps on stilts that you can attach to any flat surface, from a sheet of glass to a book, to create a coffee table. It means an old product can have a new life.
I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel. Eco products can’t just be reproductions of what is already out there – they have to work harder and be more innovative. Obviously the public will buy the cheaper version unless the eco product has something more to offer."