written by:
photos by:
January 23, 2011
Originally published in Rethink Recycling

The tale of the Emeco's 111 Navy chair is that of a phoenix rising. In 1944, the Hanover, Pennsylvania-based company began producing the original 1006 Navy chair. But despite supplying these chairs—the first to be made from 80 percent recycled aluminum—for use in virtually every U.S. Navy application that required sitting, the company was on the brink of collapse by the late 1990's. While on his way to shutter Emeco, owner Gregg Buchbinder had a startling revelation upon reviewing records: Architects Frank Gehry and Norman Foster had long been ordering chairs directly from the factory. Inspired, Buchbinder revived Emeco with a series of striking new designs, including those from Gerhy and Foster.

111 Navy Chair by Emeco

The original Emeco Navy 1006 (pronounced "ten oh six") chair caught the attention of famous modernist architects including Frank Gehry and Norman Foster. Knock-offs can be found worldwide but the authenticity of the Emeco chair is easily verified by finding indentions on the backside of the chair. Today, the company still manufactures the same 77-step design with recycled Coca-Cola bottles. Photo by Armando Bellmas.

Photo by 
1 / 13
111 Navy Chair recycled materials
Eight to ten trailer truckloads of PET bales—each measuring 80 cubic feet and consisting of 20,000 bottles—arrive for processing every weekday.
Photo by 
2 / 13
111 Navy Chair process float sink tank
A worker operates the float-sink tank. Heavier, nonrecyclable materials sink to the bottom, leaving on the water's surface only rPET, which then becomes white rinse flake.
Photo by 
Originally appeared in Grind and Sort
3 / 13
Emeco factory recycling conveyor belt
Bottles are sorted on a conveyor belt.
Photo by 
Originally appeared in Grind and Sort
4 / 13
Emeco 111 Navy Chair recycling plant
A view of the heavy machinery inside the New United Resource Recovery Corporation recycling plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
Photo by 
Originally appeared in The UnPET Process
5 / 13
Emeco 111 Navy Chair Rinse Flake
The rinse flake undergoes NURRC's patented UnPET process, in which the surface of the PET material is removed (depolymerized) and the remaining compound is roasted to remove any volatile organic content.
Photo by 
Originally appeared in The UnPET Process
6 / 13
Emeco factory 111 Navy Chair rinse flakes
The white rinse flake.
Photo by 
Originally appeared in The UnPET Process
7 / 13
Emeco 111 Navy Chair rPET mixture
Each Navy chair begins life as 13 pounds of rPET plastic pellets, which are melted down and injected into the chair mold, a multiton device that functions like a gigantic waffle iron.
Photo by 
Originally appeared in In the Mold
8 / 13
Emeco 111 Navy Chair robotic arm
After the rPET mixture is heated and transformed via injection molding into a chair, a robotic arm removes it from the specially designed mold.
Photo by 
Originally appeared in In the Mold
9 / 13
Emeco 111 Navy Chair removed from mold
The 111 Navy chairs are exact replicas of the beloved aluminum originals, down to the faux weld points on the backside.
Photo by 
Originally appeared in In the Mold
10 / 13
Emeco 111 Navy Chair design process
A worker smoothes any imperfections before manually installing the H-brace.
Photo by 
Originally appeared in Final FInishes
11 / 13
Emeco 111 Navy Chair process
One of the final steps is to install the H-Brace and feet, both fabricated on another mold.
Photo by 
Originally appeared in Final FInishes
12 / 13
Emeco 111 Navy Chair
Each chair is stamped on the underside to read, "Help your bottle become something extraordinary again."
Photo by 
Originally appeared in Final FInishes
13 / 13
111 Navy Chair by Emeco

The original Emeco Navy 1006 (pronounced "ten oh six") chair caught the attention of famous modernist architects including Frank Gehry and Norman Foster. Knock-offs can be found worldwide but the authenticity of the Emeco chair is easily verified by finding indentions on the backside of the chair. Today, the company still manufactures the same 77-step design with recycled Coca-Cola bottles. Photo by Armando Bellmas.

111 Navy Chair by Emeco

The original Emeco Navy 1006 (pronounced "ten oh six") chair caught the attention of famous modernist architects including Frank Gehry and Norman Foster. Knock-offs can be found worldwide but the authenticity of the Emeco chair is easily verified by finding indentions on the backside of the chair. Today, the company still manufactures the same 77-step design with recycled Coca-Cola bottles. Photo by Armando Bellmas.

In 2006, Emeco partnered with the Coca-Cola Company to recreate the iconic chair using rPET (in essence, recycled plastic bottles). Judging by its reception at the 2010 Milan Furniture Fair, the 111 Navy chair—so named for the number of plastic bottled required to fabricate each seat—has an extremely bright future ahead.

Grind and Sort
The story of the 111 Navy Chair starts in the New United Resource Recovery Corporation (NURRC) recycling plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina, where eight to ten trailer truckloads of PET bales—each measuring 80 cubic feet and consisting of 20,000 bottles—arrive for processing every weekday.

111 Navy Chair recycled materials
Eight to ten trailer truckloads of PET bales—each measuring 80 cubic feet and consisting of 20,000 bottles—arrive for processing every weekday.

The bales, which have traveled from municipalities east of the Mississippi River, are loaded onto conveyor belts for sorting. Virtually everything involved in the PET reclamation process at NURRC—including the water used to wash the bottles—is recycled. Non-PET materials, such as polypropylene caps, are sold to other facilities. ; by-products are reused, such as ethylene glycol, then used in automobile antifreeze.
111 Navy Chair process float sink tank
A worker operates the float-sink tank. Heavier, nonrecyclable materials sink to the bottom, leaving on the water's surface only rPET, which then becomes white rinse flake.

Barring any snafus in the sorting process—bowling balls and small engines have been spotted on the conveyor belt—the bottles are sorted, ground, sent through dry and wet washes (which transforms them into rinse flake), and then sorted by color.

The UnPET Process

Emeco 111 Navy Chair Rinse Flake
The rinse flake undergoes NURRC's patented UnPET process, in which the surface of the PET material is removed (depolymerized) and the remaining compound is roasted to remove any volatile organic content.
The rinse flake undergoes NURRC's patented UnPET process, in which the surface of the PET material is removed (depolymerized) and the remaining compound is "roasted" to remove any volitive organic content, rendering it usable for food grade packaging (much of the rPET is used to make new bottles and other products). "Think of the process like an onion," explains Lawson "Boo" Hayes, CFO of the plant. "You pull an onion out of the ground and it's covered in dirt. You shake it and some of the dirt comes off. You peel a little more off and you get a pearl of an onion. That's basically what we do with the PET here: It comes looking dark and dirty, and we literally etch off the outer layers to remove all impurities." The company processes 100 million pounds of PET bales each year, seven days a week, making the facility one of the global leaders in PET recycling.

In the Mold

Emeco 111 Navy Chair rPET mixture
Each Navy chair begins life as 13 pounds of rPET plastic pellets, which are melted down and injected into the chair mold, a multiton device that functions like a gigantic waffle iron.
By the time the rPET compound reaches the cavernous 270,000-square-foot Bemis Manufacturing facility in the rolling Blue Ridge foothills of North Carolina—a meticulous industrial wonderland humming, both literally and figuratively, with energy—the rPET has already made a trip to BASF in Tennessee, where it is combined with glass fiber and color pigment. Amid hydraulic machines creating components for garden supplies, construction equipment, and school buses, each 111 Navy chair begins life as 13 pounds of rPET plastic pellets, which are melted down and injected into the chair mold, a multiton device that functions like a gigantic waffle iron. Once the mold is loaded, the chair is formed, hollowed out via gas injection, then tempered and cooled. The entire process takes approximately three minutes. Following the initial in-mold cooling, the chair is removed by a robot and presented to a factory worker.
Emeco 111 Navy Chair robotic arm
After the rPET mixture is heated and transformed via injection molding into a chair, a robotic arm removes it from the specially designed mold.

Final Finishes
The worker smooths any imperfections before manually installing the H-brace (created on another mold) as well as the feet.
Emeco 111 Navy Chair design process
A worker smoothes any imperfections before manually installing the H-brace.

This final laying on of hands, labor intensive though it may be, is the hallmark of Emeco's Navy chair legacy. Watching the technician clean the rough points on each chair, one is struck by the hybrid nature of this project, in which 21st-century recycling technology is married to a handmade aesthetic, producing an object both old and new—in more ways than one.
Emeco 111 Navy Chair process
One of the final steps is to install the H-Brace and feet, both fabricated on another mold.

The  111 Navy chairs are exact replicas of the aluminum originals, down to the faux weld points on the backside; Emeco knew that Navy-chair devtees would accept nothing less. "At the Milan Furniture Fair," says Daniel Fogelson, Emeco's vice president of sales and marketing, "the first thing our clients did was turn the chair around and look for those [weld] marks, just to make sure we hadn't screwed it up." And the company hasn't.

Emeco 111 Navy Chair
Each chair is stamped on the underside to read, "Help your bottle become something extraordinary again."

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

Italian Apline home with double-height walls on one facade.
Every week, we highlight one amazing Dwell home that went viral on Pinterest. Follow Dwell's Pinterest account for more daily design inspiration.
February 05, 2016
A built-in sofa with Design Tex upholstery marks the boundary between the two-level addition and the bungalow. Leading up to the master bedroom, a perforated metal staircase, lit from above, casts a Sigmar Polke–like shadow grid on the concrete floor.
From a minimalist Walter Gropius design to a curving sculptural stair, these six stairways run the gamut.
February 05, 2016
distant structure lakeside prefab norway facade stones green roof
Dwell has traveled all over the world, from Tasmania to Indonesia, to report on modern houses.
February 05, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment master bedroom atrium
Get ready for a weekend of rest with these sleepy, little cocoons.
February 05, 2016
lamp show 99 cent plus gallery 0
At Brooklyn's 99¢ Plus gallery, 30 artists and designers re-imagine the lamp in an illuminating light show.
February 04, 2016
Hidden storage stairwell with raw brass hardware
Having ample space to stow items is a daily struggle—peep these modern homes for some ideas on maximizing your square footage.
February 04, 2016
modern fairhaven beach house blackbutt eucalyptus living room Patricia Urquiola sofa
Whether it's along a coast in Australia or the French Alps, wood provides a natural touch in these interiors.
February 04, 2016
Glass and steel sculpture in Printemps store of Paris.
In the Paris' venerable Printemps department store, two Toronto-based firms were tasked with enlivening a new atrium and creating a unique experience for visitors. YabuPushelberg, partnering with UUfie, designed this stunning steel "sail" embedded with vibrant dichroic glass.
February 04, 2016
Monochromatic Master Bedroom in Copenhagen Townhouse
Whether it's to maximize limited light or create a soothing interior, these five projects go white in a big way.
February 04, 2016
EQ3 Assembly quilt by Kenneth LaVallee
The new Assembly collection from EQ3 celebrates up-and-coming figures in Canadian design. Discover this newly appointed class, which debuted at Toronto's Interior Design Show, here.
February 03, 2016
The Greenhouses of Half Moon Bay
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most viral design and architecture shots of the week.
February 03, 2016
Deck of Australian addition to Edwardian home.
A 1,500-square-foot home in Melbourne welcomes a modern black and white kitchen, dining, and living area.
February 03, 2016
open plan concrete home in japan
Embracing the organic, imperfect material, these raw concrete surfaces are a step up from exposed brick.
February 03, 2016
Renovated DC Row House loft space with Arne Jacobsen Egg Chair.
The classic designer's signature and comfortable forms continue to be popular in homes today.
February 03, 2016
Zinc-roofed cabin France.
An architect builds an energy-efficient home near one of France’s most popular pilgrimage sites.
February 03, 2016
1973 Palm Springs home
Made for casual design enthusiasts and Palm Springs connoisseurs alike, Unseen Midcentury Desert Modern offers a peek into 51 buildings—some not open to the public—in that Southern California mecca of modernism. Begun in 2008 by photographer Dan Chavkin, the book is set for release this February 9th and will be available on Amazon and at multiple venues of Modernism Week in Palm Springs, February 11 - 21. Here we preview some of its images.
February 03, 2016
Millennial concept home with an outdoor living area
A concept home aims to reflect the requests of the Millennial market.
February 03, 2016
The two twelve-by-sixteen-foot bedrooms, directly above a comparable pair on the first floor, feature a glass transom that follows the pitch of the roof. “The stair and railings were very simple,” Depardon observes. “We added a bit of design, with panels
Skylights needn't be simple overhead daylighting; sometimes they can truly define a room.
February 03, 2016
Modern small space Rhode Island cottage with landscaping and cedar cladding
Surrounded by nature, these cottages are tranquil retreats from the city.
February 03, 2016
The couple kept original touches, including the arch.
Historic archways belie these contemporary homes with physical reminders of each structure's storied past.
February 03, 2016
modern guesthouse in norway with angular facade and cutaway patio with spruce cladding and ikea chair
These houses make room for nature, not the other way around.
February 02, 2016
Modern kitchen with yellow sectioned walls and monochrome appliances
Whether it's a splash of color or bold strokes, this collection of interiors brightens up these homes.
February 02, 2016
Rust-washed concrete wall in Moscow apartment renovation.
This 590-square-foot apartment was stripped down to admit sunlight and dramatically reveal forgotten surfaces.
February 02, 2016
Nendo's collection of objects inspired by Star Wars
In a galaxy not so far away, Japanese studio Nendo has released a versatile collection of objects inspired by classic Star Wars characters.
February 02, 2016
Monti catered to his mother’s love of cooking by giving her ample storage areas along the 70-foot long walnut wall-slash-cabinet. The refrigerator, kitchen items and other goods easily disappear into the wall when not in use. The nonporous, stain-, scratc
Sometimes the earthy colors and vivid grain of a wood like walnut is all you need to make a space.
February 02, 2016
renovated modern home in Austin interior kitchen
From California to Connecticut, these midcentury interiors still shine through thanks to the careful attention of architects and residents alike.
February 02, 2016
Outdoor dining area at a Saigon home.
A city home honors the local culture with communal outdoor space and reclaimed materials.
February 02, 2016
Affordable Portland home upper floor wrapped in black corrugated steel
These homes revel in both nature and city life.
February 01, 2016
London bedroom with exposed beams.
These homes show their bones to great effect.
February 01, 2016
Bar in an Amsterdam loft.
Bend an elbow with us at these very local watering holes.
February 01, 2016