2 min

Architect of innovation

Designer turns trash into treasure

This floor-to-ceiling light fixture is made from repurposed plastic bottles. Credit: Courtesy of Eric Charron
Intern architect Eric Charron has taken the environmentally conscious recycling movement one step further. Inspired by the 2009 Toronto garbage strike, Charron founded Upcycled XD, a one-man design company that repurposes materials bound for processing and transforms them into functional items.
A graduate of Carleton University, Charron obtained his master’s in architecture from the University of British Columbia in 2008. He now works at Spencer R Higgins architecture firm in Toronto, yet his passion for design led him to found his upstart company in 2009.
When the massive trash strike left Canada’s largest city wading in heaps of garbage, he saw an opportunity to capitalize on the debris.
“A roommate of mine was buying all these four-litre water bottles, and they were taking up all this space in our recycling bins,” he says. “So I asked him not to put them in the bins and I started developing storage and lighting out of them.”
Aside from lighting fixtures and storage units, Charron creates tables and wall units from plastic and serving trays made out of cork. All the materials he uses are donated locally or liberated from recycling bins. Several Toronto restaurants have purchased Upcycled XD trays.
“I’m essentially creating value or giving value to products that currently have none. Through my research I’ve found that 80 percent of plastics don’t end up getting recycled; they end up in landfills,” he says. “So by reusing them for these purposes, I’m contributing more to the reuse and recycle effort than most recycling programs do.”
Obtaining materials can be tricky. However, conceptualizing the pieces was Charron’s biggest hurdle. He says designing the items took a lot of trial and error, which produced some surprising results.
“All of the pieces took time to develop. They evolved based on exploration and discovery, basically through playing with the materials,” he says. “All the pieces either had a purpose that I initially envisioned for them or I made discoveries along the way.”
Consultant David Megathlin has three of Charron’s pieces on display in his New York City apartment, including a chandelier, coffee table and wall storage unit.
Megathlin says he was first drawn to Charron’s work because of the environmental aspect. However, the upscale look of the Upcycled pieces also played a factor.
“Everything is clear, light and modern,” Megathlin says. “The look is very fresh and new. They fit the aesthetic of my apartment.”
The peculiarity of Charron’s work doesn’t go unnoticed. Megathlin says everyone from friends to delivery people comment on the repurposed refuse. 
“The most amusing comments come from delivery men who come to my door and say, ‘I have a package for . . . what is that?’” he says with a laugh.  
Megathlin plans on purchasing more work from Upcycled XD in the future, saying Charron’s willingness to please his clients is a rare commodity in the world of design.
“He understands his clients’ needs while being able to fit his own perspective and aesthetic into the pieces,” Megathlin says. “That sets him apart from other designers.”
Charron recently donated a chandelier to the Autism Speaks Canada foundation and says he will work with any client to achieve the look they desire. 
“I’ll work with any client on any type of custom design,” he says.

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