Joseán Vilar: “The circular economy and sustainability are not a trend, they are a necessity”

Joseán Vilar is executive director of NaifactoryLab, an entity focused on creativity and design as a formula for converting waste into quality raw material. Its most outstanding project is Reolivar, a new material made from olive pits. At En primera persona we speak with one of the creators of the project, which can currently be seen at the Remix El Barrio exposition at the Disseny Hub.

Can you explain to us what Reolivar consists of?

Reolivar tries to be an ambassador for this idea of recycling waste to transform it into materials, making the most of waste that is not just abundant here, but that is also connected to our culture. Our idea was to work with olive pits and to give them a permanent form that could help disseminate what the circular economy is as a society-changing agent.

The initiative arose in connection with Materfad. How did that happen? Can you explain how it arose and why?

We come from the temporary architecture sector, one that generates a lot of waste. We saw the amount of waste we generated after every event and this caused us a lot of concern. We began to research biomaterials and discovered MaterFad. Suddenly, we saw a whole range of possibilities and the number of teams that were developing things all over the world. My partner Silvana Catazine signed up to some training in Elisava with Robert Thompson, the Director of MaterFad, and this accelerated the whole process. During the training she had to choose a waste product, and this ended up being the olive pit.

How has the initiative developed?

After Silvana struck on this initial formula of the material, we began disseminating it through trade fairs and other events such as Design Market 2019 and Maker Faire Barcelona. We realised that we had potential and focussed on that. Thanks to these events we entered the FabLab programme and the Barcelona Activa programme, Crea Media.

What is special about the olive pit?

The olive pit is interesting because it is essentially wood. It is quite a dense type of wood and one of its advantages is that we can obtain it without cutting down trees. The olive harvest provides us with it for free every year. Its resistance also means that the material has a very interesting mechanical response. It is quite a dense material, but we can make it tend towards a rougher or smoother texture, for example. It also offers us some interesting chromatic possibilities because the pit is one colour or another depending on the season in which the olive is collected.

What have you managed to do with this material made from olive pits?

We began researching the sectors we know best, such as furniture, product design and toys, because they are sectors in which we are most comfortable as designers. It is also a sector that is growing due to the pandemic. The household products market has grown. We also liked the idea of people taking these products home, making them a kind of evangelists and they could share them with their friends and family.

You are part of the 2021 edition of Remix El Barrio. How do you rate this kind of initiative?

For us it has been fundamental. I think it is something that should be promoted. It should be stimulated not just from corporations, but also from administrations, creating spaces to research and generate contact between the teams. It has enriched us greatly, both technically and in terms of motivation.

Are you experimenting with more materials at Naifactory Lab? What other projects are you working on?

Yes. We do have other projects because when you open the box, you begin to see that there are lots of other interesting things that can be used. The more things we can reuse, the better. Our intention is that people end up realising how much can be done with waste products. If the companies begin to see this and begin to see their own waste as raw material, they can begin to generate their own solutions.

There are currently several design projects with food waste biomaterials. Do you feel like part of that desire to promote a planet-friendly circular economy ecosystem and a better society?

The circular economy is nothing more than a strategy to achieve a goal, which is to be more sustainable. Companies want to be sustainable and carry out a circular economy, but not all of them do it in reality. Those of us working on it are really having a bad time, because it is very difficult to dedicate oneself to this and there are very few grants, and the few there are must be divided up. There is a trend towards the circular economy, but it is one of words and not actions.

Sustainability is one of the aspects that is most considered in current design. Do you believe that there is still a lot to do?

Yes, there is a lot to do. The problem is that we are digging with a spade to try to build something, and behind us are some giant excavators moving earth from one side to another, which are the whole system that is up and running and is unstoppable. The speed at which the solutions evolve is much less than the speed at which problems progress.

Luckily, human beings are stubborn, and although the road seems difficult there is always someone willing to go beyond. And there are some of us who believe it is possible to evolve. And many other people who will come onboard because it is clear that this is not a trend, but a necessity.

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