Waste is a design flaw: How ReBorn is turning plastic waste into homewares

ReBorn Homewares
Holly Branson
Holly Branson's writing
Published on 20 November 2023

It’s one thing for a company to be driven by purpose, but it’s another thing to be designed by it.

Cue, ReBorn – a brilliant start-up that is transforming the homeware industry by turning industrial waste into functional and design-led products. This is what caught my eye when I first discovered ReBorn, and it’s ultimately why I invested in the start-up too. I caught up with the start-up’s founder, Brian Walmsley, for an Investing with Purpose interview to learn more about ReBorn’s mission to transform the industry through circular design, innovation, radical collaboration, and a whole lot of resilience.

Investing with Purpose: Holly Branson sits down with ReBorn

Brian founded ReBorn after spending many years working in the homeware industry and growing increasingly frustrated by the lack of sustainability and circularity in the sector. While sustainable brands aren’t difficult to find in fashion, food, and other consumer goods, there is a distinct gap when it comes to homewares. With a firm belief that waste is a design flaw, Brian became determined to change this.

I first heard about ReBorn in 2022 when Brian was taking part in Virgin StartUp’s Collective Impactaccelerator programme for purpose-led start-ups. I was so impressed by his determination to clean up the homeware industry, which is worth around £26 billion a year in the UK alone. As Brianexplained in our interview, almost everything in the industry is made from virgin materials, outsourced to third party factories from the Far-East, and most items are impossible to repair or recycle at end of life. This involves extensive use of fossil fuels in both manufacture and transport, which all comes at a great cost to the planet.

ReBorn Homewares

Brian was determined to tackle the issue, but when only 9% of plastics in the Western world are recycled, how do you create change? According to Brian, it’s all about collaboration. He built a powerful partnership with the UK’s leading sustainable waste management company, Biffa, and they took on the challenge of sourcing the plastic waste and making the products, right here in the UK. He also worked with a design team called Studio Davis based in Bath that work solely on circular design. When it came to funding and getting investment ready, Virgin StartUp stepped in and showed him the ropes… and introduced him to me! Now, ReBorn is stocked in John Lewis stores across the UK and is expanding into new sectors and new markets with new products and new customers. Moreover, the beautiful products produce 79% less carbon emissions than imported products and are fully recyclable, reusable and repairable. Brilliant.

Incredible work Brian. I’m excited to see the brand continue to grow and to see your positive impact ripple through the industry.

If you have a purpose-driven business you’re keen to grow, apply for Virgin StartUp’s next Collective Impact programme before November 26.