Photo courtesy of Mobikya
Rubber is one of those materials which can be found in almost everything we use in our daily lives, yet we barely notice it. It is a common component in our clothes, shoes, toys, household items, and of course car tires, which are the first thing to come to mind when we think of rubber.
As the disposal of rubber waste is a serious ecological problem, upcycling tires has a greatly positive impact on the environment. Founded by Ibrahim A. Abougendy, also known as the “Trash Designer”, Mobikya is a green interior design studio and firm that up-cycles old rubber tires into furniture, from tables to chairs and even beds.
During his final year studying architecture, Abougendy started to wonder if up-cycling was the solution to the excessive waste problem and a way to fulfill consumers’ need for everyday sustainably made products. “Building unique spaces for people is cool but being sustainable and utilizing my design eye and knowledge to transform solid waste into a product that people and the environment would love [was my goal],” Abougendy says. Lacking the financial capacity to use solid waste in architecture, he decided to switch to smaller units; and after trying with plastic containers and wooden pallets, Abougendy selected tires.
When it comes to sourcing tires, it is safe to say that there isn’t a shortage of any kind; tires are easy and cheap to buy, as they are frequently dumped in junk yards and landfills. The issue, however, is more about quality control for Abougendy. “After working with tires for three years, we developed a certain criteria to pick and source [them]… to transform them into a product that suits the specific tire,” he says.
Yet sticking to high-quality tires comes at a cost. “We increase our prices quarterly for buying materials from suppliers; that’s how you keep them dedicated enough to source materials that Mobikya needs according to the updated specifications,” Abougendy says. “Our goal is to gather tires end-to-end from clients, and involve them in the process of exchanging their wastes with products.”
The tires are always a significant part in Mobikya’s designs. “We, as designers, always prioritize the tire to be apparent in our products. We find that seeing the tire in the final product would make the customers wonder about the most worthwhile way to deal with his or her waste,” Abougendy explains. Their R&D department works tirelessly to develop special paints and coatings and other innovations, and every collection is a bit more advanced. “Maybe one day, our clients won’t see tires but they will know that a tire was the reason why they are swinging comfortably,” the innovative founder contends.
With a range of more than 15 products, Abougendy created the ‘Tire House’, the main design element being tires throughout the entire home. “We wanted to design an immersive living room experience,” Abougendy tells Egypt Today. And after a month of trial and error, Abougendy transformed strong car speakers into a sound system, using rubber tires instead of the more common wooden boxes. “The properties of the rubber material improves the acoustics of sound,” Abougendy says. “The sound system… turned out to be very immersive, not only in the music mood, but also when watching a movie; the balance between music, sound effects and VO is awesome while sitting on ‘Hubbly Bubbly’ chair or a sofa,” Abougendy adds, referring to another invention by Mobikya often alternatively dubbed the ‘Living Chair’. The chair’s elasticity helps users sit back while still in motion, not putting all the concentration on their back, so it is even more healthy to sit on it for longer hours than ordinary chairs. The chair could reportedly last up to 20 years, and Mobikya offers a replacement for free in the unlikely case that the chair is destroyed in the first year. When asked about who he sees as his ideal clientele, Abougendy says, “I want people who think that the green hype and climate change are not real. When they interacts with our products, I want that to educate them. After the client tries the product… he will love it like a pet, he will search, he will see facts; and then, he will be aware.”
Although he believes that the “up-cycling trend is not prevalent yet” in Egypt, Abougendy says, “I see we have an increasing number of mature companies offering unique products. Accelerators and VCs begin to emerge in the green sector… I see leading potential in Egypt’s participation to global up-cycling.”
He also stresses that it is important for people to include up-cycled and reusable products into their daily lives, as the smallest contribution can still make a difference. “Each of the 7 billion people living on the planet matter. Their daily habits matter. [If] all of them decided not to use plastic straws for a day, we would save 50 million straws. If all of them stopped buying wooden furniture, we would save thousands of trees. If all of them used electric vehicles, 500 million oil barrels moving daily across the world would stop. The planet is dying, and every person should do his part,” Abougendy notes.
Mobikya is currently working on a collection of innovative mirrors. “Golden geometry in the main ambient of crafting circular mirrors with detailed elegance. I think [in the case of] these mirrors specifically, most people when they see them they don’t know if they are tires or another material.” With a vision for circular economy, Mobikya has also partnered with the online retail platform TheRealReal; where secondhand Stella McCartney purchases are rewarded with $100 credit to be used at the brand’s own stores. This prevents unwanted pieces from ending up in landfills and eliminates waste. It also drives up in-store and online purchases of the new collections. Mobikya is working on launching a similar service soon.
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