Posted by NiMi Projects on

Sayumi Tadokoro, cheif designer of Buoy recycled plastic homeware for Techno-Lab, holds up a few samples of different coloured items made from recycled marine waste plastic collected from the shores of Japan.
Sayumi Tadokoro of Buoy. Image courtesy of Buoy


For International Women’s Day we wanted to spotlight the innovative designer of one of our newest brands, Buoy.

Made entirely of marine plastic waste collected from the coasts of Japan, other than a protective film of coating, Buoy items are made using a unique molding technique for an initiative spear-headed by Sayumi Tadokoro.

Not only is Tadokoro the brain behind the Buoy concept and product design but she also manages the branding, public relations, web production and SNS management at Buoy.

Working as chief designer at plastic molding company Techno-Labo, Tadokoro led a team to create the eco-conscious reBirth project, leading to the development of Buoy. Named after the anchored nautical float, the objective was to find new ways to re-purpose discarded plastics and lengthen their functional life span.

Using her background in product design and art school training, she challenges the way we see conventional objects: “I wanted to develop products rather than art. Plastics and its product development can meet the niche needs of modern society minor obstacles,” she says of Buoy. “I want to create a stir about our relationship with plastics and how it can be used as a material while still working toward solving environmental problems."


Recycled marine plastic, sorted into blue, green, yellow and red piles, laid out ready for processing into Buoy homeware products, made in Japan from waste collected on Japanese shores.Image courtesy of Buoy


For Tadokoro, addressing a continued cycle of mass consumption and offering a solution to a single-use plastic culture is imperative: “I’d like to change the idea that plastic is cheap, disposable — that it’s easy to buy and throw away. From the producer's point of view, we tend to focus on mass production. I based my designs with the idea that people would look at the objects and see it as unique, quality piece of craftsmanship, one that would make them think about it before purchasing.”

Tadokoro and her team work with Japan’s municipalities to collect coastal waste, and as part of Buoy’s initiative, they also hold workshops to craft objects from litter using Buoy’s new and innovative plastic molding technique.

Marine waste is a major problem for Japan, having among the worst levels of marine debris drifting pollution in the world. The westerlies — prevailing winds from the west toward the east — create ocean currents that carry marine debris directly to the western coastlines of Japan and Taiwan. A problem not helped by having China, the largest emitter of marine plastic waste in the world, as a neighbour.

Buoy organises its own litter collections, and shreds and recycles plastic litter into homeware using a patented process that can meld together different resins. No bonding agents or pigments are added, and its products’ vibrant hues are the result of carefully colour-sorted plastics. 

Here’s one way to think about it — materials for wood products are sourced from the forest, ceramics come from the soil — likewise, the materials used to make Buoy come from the ocean. One major difference, though, is that Buoy actually aims to become obsolete — with the hope that one day there will be no marine debris to collect.

You can shop the full collection of Buoy here.

Read our other NiMi Projects journal articles here.

Buoy recycled marine plastic leaf trays, in green, red, blue and yellow - made in Japan from waste collected on Japanese shores.