Rossana Orlandi presents Guiltless Plastic at Milan Design Week 2021

Guiltless Plastic is Rossana Orlandi’s thrilling exploration of the material’s potential for recycling and upcycling in design

Supermarket inside frescoed palace in Milan
The Re-Food market set in the Sala del Cenacolo, under Baroque frescoes and part of Rossana Orlandi's Guiltless Plastic exhibition at the Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia Leonardo da Vinci, Milan
(Image credit: Marco Menghi)

Investigator of trends and promoter of new talents, Rossana Orlandi has selected a series of objects and design ideas that are recycled or recyclable to present at Milan Design Week 2021. Titled Guiltless Plastic, the project originates from the idea that plastic is not in itself something to blame – on the contrary, according to Orlandi, plastic waste can easily be considered one of the biggest resources available with potential to be transformed, so it’s fundamental to promote the recycling and upcycling of plastic in design. 

Guiltless Plastic 2021 

Drone photography of milanese palazzo courtyard with rossana orlandi guiltless plastic installation

Circular Lab arena

(Image credit: Marco Menghi)

For its 2021 edition, Guiltless Plastic has been impressively set into the Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia Leonardo da Vinci, the largest science and technology museum in Italy. Just a stroll from Orlandi’s gallery, it has been turned into a farsighted space where design meets art and architecture to address re-waste. 

Inside the museum, the mix of past splendour and tension towards the future is apparent. The cloisters (the museum occupies the spaces of a former Benedictine monastery) are turned into the Hall of Waste, a scenic succession of projects by eco-friendly companies and designers, while the gardens are converted into a TrashFormation Village devoted to low environmental impact architectures. These include the Houseboat designed by Lucio Micheletti, a blue micro-living unit on two levels celebrating life on a boat; and the Circular Lab designed by architect Mario Cucinella, a recyclable arena made through the assembly of tanks usually used for the collection of industrial waste. 

3d printed clear plastic vases

(Image credit: Marco Menghi)

Nearby, under impressive Baroque frescoes, the Sala del Cenacolo – a former refectory of the monastery, opened to the public last year after a renovation – is transmuted into a modern supermarket, or Re-Food Market, set up with an installation dedicated to the recovery of food waste. There’s even a school, whose walls are made with recycled and recyclable chairs by Danish architecture studio Lendager Group.

Alongside Guiltless Plastic, Rossana Orlandi launched the third edition of its Ro Plastic Prize, an international award committed to stimulating creativity and social responsibility on the issue. The winners of this year’s edition, just announced, are Maria Koijck, with a touching video in which she lies in the midst of a huge amount of waste resulting from an operation she underwent for breast cancer; zero-waste portable bluetooth speakers made out battery cells from e-bikes by the sustainable design company Gomi; and Álvaro Catalán de Ocón’s rug woven with recycled plastic debris, called ‘Plastic River No.6 Ganges’ and displaying a map of the Ganges region, one of most polluted rivers in the world.

stone bench with curved edges

Among the exhibition's other material explorations is this stone bench by BCXSY and Laboratorio Morseletto

(Image credit: Marco Menghi)

Patricia Urquiola’s ‘Nuances’ rug for Gan, made by discarded felt fibre

Rug featuring colourful striped motif in recycled materials by Patricia Urquiola

(Image credit: Marco Menghi)

Cloister in Milanese Palazzo with architectural installation

School made with recycled and recyclable chairs by Danish architecture studio Lendager Group 

(Image credit: Marco Menghi)

lacquered colourful bricks shown in the museum courtyard by Rossana Orlandi

The ‘2,1 kg Elegance’ chair (inspired by Gio Ponti’s ‘Superleggera’) by Hans Sandgren Jakobsen

(Image credit: Marco Menghi)

Sofa made with recycled plastic recreating stone effect

‘Johnny Couch’ by Klass Kuiken, inspired by Dadaism and Punk aesthetics and part of the ‘Stop Making Sense!’ collection by White Noise, the result of a collaboration between Kuiken and Charley Reijnders

(Image credit: Marco Menghi)

Houseboat installation, part of Guiltless Plastic show in Milan

Houseboat designed by Lucio Micheletti, a blue micro-living unit on two levels

(Image credit: Marco Menghi)


Cristina Kiran Piotti is an Italian-Indian freelance journalist. After completing her studies in journalism in Milan, she pursued a master's degree in the economic relations between Italy and India at the Ca' Foscari Challenge School in Venice. She splits her time between Milan and Mumbai and, since 2008, she has concentrated her work mostly on design, current affairs, and culture stories, often drawing on her enduring passion for geopolitics. She writes for several publications in both English and Italian, and she is a consultant for communication firms and publishing houses. 

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