Cologne: 20.–23.05.2025 #interzum

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Materials for the Circular Economy

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Awareness about sustainable practices in society and industry is growing, with a focus on actively tackling the climate crisis and decarbonisation.

The winds of change have been blowing in the international supplier sector for furniture and interior design too. Promising new developments are preparing the path toward low-emission material and product cycles. Around the world, research is being carried out, new ideas are being tested and innovative solutions are being developed.

Hemp Fine: chair with a seat made of waste residual fibres from processing hemp (source: Vepa)

Hemp Fine: chair with a seat made of waste residual fibres from processing hemp (source: Vepa)

The transition to circular design models

Today, young designers, start-ups, and manufacturing and processing companies are working on sustainable, bio-based materials, innovative processes and new products to make interior furnishings and home living healthier and more eco-friendly. But the success of the transition to circular design models doesn’t just depend on the ideas of individual companies. It’s primarily through collaboration that sustainable technologies for furniture and interior design emerge.

Working together to boost sustainability

With its key topic of neo-ecology, this year’s upcoming interzum will be focusing on transforming our economy to make it more circular.

The most important megatrend of the next decade, neo-ecology describes a shift in the values of society as a whole towards a circular consumerism that is in harmony with the mechanisms of nature. As the industry’s leading international trade fair, interzum is aiming to create fresh momentum and drive forward the collective dialogue.

Materials from the inner bark of pine trees

PineSkins: textile materials from the inner bark of pine trees (source: Sarmite Polakova)

Innovative: bio-based materials

Future agency Haute Innovation is demonstrating the importance of circular thinking in the latest material innovations. Under the title “Sustainability Matters”, the experts from Berlin are curating the Materials & Nature Trend Forum at interzum 2023. With pioneering innovations, they will be showcasing materials and technologies that fit the circular economy concept, along with their potential applications for the furniture and interior design industry.

Growing awareness of the environment and health is driving the development of new solutions in the interior design sector. These concerns are having an increasing influence on furniture and interior design products and production processes. According to Dr Sascha Peters, who directs the Haute Innovation agency together with Diana Drewes, “achieving maximum resource-efficiency is at the top of companies’ agendas, along with use of materials that can be returned to the circular economy and reduction of CO2 emissions in production.”

Elements for drawers made from renewable plant fibers

OrganiQ: composite material made of up to 68 per cent hemp and kenaf plant fibres (source: Holzwerk Rockenhausen)

The significance of secondary recycling

Above all, the awareness of the usability of CO2 as a resource in panel and textile manufacturing is driving the development of new production methods, according to the findings of the material experts. “A wealth of material innovations is springing up in this field, promoting the formation of circular business models and optimising use of the available resources,” says Dr Peters. “Materials suitable for secondary recycling, which have been used very little up to now, are becoming more important as a result.”

Examples he mentions include leather alternatives based on waste material from German hemp farming, textiles made out of tree bark and biodegradable foams derived from cork powder, coconut fibres and biogenic binding agents. Innovations like these can increase material efficiency enormously when it comes to circular models in certain materials sectors.

Inspiration for the future

The use of natural resources and previously unused organic residual materials to create components for interior design offers huge potential for innovation. Materials developed on this basis are particularly environmentally friendly because they can easily be returned to the biological cycle. As a result, they provide important impetus for an ecological transformation of the supplier sector. Time and time again, they are inspiring new ideas and concepts, driving ahead development.

You can find more information about the interzum 2023 event programme here.