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Herman Miller Increases Use of Ocean Plastics in Iconic Aeron Chair

Image: Herman Miller Aeron chair
The initiative is projected to save the equivalent of approximately 15 million single-use plastic water bottles from ending up in waterways.

Herman Miller (Zeeland, MI) announced that its entire portfolio of Aeron chairs will contain ocean-bound plastic, including a new color, Onyx Ultra Matte, which contains up to 2.5 pounds of plastic waste found near waterways. These material changes in the Aeron portfolio are projected to save more than 150 tons of plastic annually from being released into the ocean, equal to approximately 15 million single-use plastic water bottles, the company claims.

These updates are part of Herman Miller’s membership in NextWave Plastics, its ongoing commitment to sustainability and long-term goal to increase the use of recycled content to at least 50%, including ocean-bound plastic across all material, by 2030.

Aeron is the latest in a growing list of products that Herman Miller has re-engineered using ocean-bound plastic. The effort also includes parts of the recently launched OE1 Workplace collection, the Sayl chair in Europe, and its Revenio textile collection, which is made of 100% recycled materials and includes a biodegradable polyester. The company is also reducing its footprint by adding ocean-bound plastic to returnable shipping crates and poly bags used to keep products safe during transit.

“We joined NextWave to play an active role in taking on the ocean plastic problem and cast a wide net for opportunities to incorporate ocean across our global operations,” said Gabe Wing, Herman Miller’s Director of Sustainability. “We’re proud of the progress we’ve already made with packaging and textiles, and are eager to continue doing our part in preventing harmful plastic from reaching our oceans by adding it to the iconic Aeron chair.”

The plastic used in Aeron is currently sourced from India and Indonesia, two of many locations where Herman Miller and other NextWave member companies are establishing a supply chain for this material. Herman Miller explained to PlasticsToday that many of the coastal cities in these countries lack the infrastructure to manage plastic waste. Waste pickers earn a living by collecting the plastic waste and bringing it to collection sites, where they are paid for the materials they have collected.

These collection sites separate and bale the materials for sale either to distributors or, in some cases, directly to local manufacturers. The material, typically HDPE and PET, is then sold to processors who clean and process the material into usable resins. “By sourcing ocean-bound plastic from these areas, companies are making both an economic and social impact by supporting local communities and employing individuals who make a living collecting mismanaged waste near the shoreline,” said a Herman Miller spokesperson in response to questions from PlasticsToday.

Herman Miller sources nylon fishing gear from cities in India for the chair’s back frame and water bottles and other containers from cities in Indonesia for the tilt covers. “We’re doing more than making an environmental impact,” said Bob Teasley, Director of Supply Management at Herman Miller. “By working with coastal communities around the world to harvest ocean-bound plastic, we’re increasing demand, creating jobs, and boosting economies.”

When asked about pricing using resin from recycled ocean-bound plastic, Herman Miller said the company has not raised the cost of the Aeron Chair that uses the recycled plastic. All chairs in the Aeron Portfolio are up to 90% recyclable and composed of over 50% recycled content.

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