November 16, 2010

An Interview With Jimmy Chiang Of Way Basics

Modular storage cubes and shelves are nothing new, but there's something special about these ones: they're made from recycled paper! I recently encountered some of this paper furniture from Way Basics and discovered that in addition to being fun and affordable, it's also surprisingly strong. The self-assembled cubes, bookcases, and other pieces are made from post-consumer recycled paper, water-based glue, and no formaldehyde or VOCs. Curious to learn more about these eco-friendly products, I interviewed Jimmy Chiang, CEO of Way Basics.

How did you come up with the idea for making furniture out of recycled paper?

Furniture made from recycled paper isn't new. For years people have been constructing furniture, structural pieces from cardboard. Famous designers like Frank Gehry have created recycled paper masterpieces. Most of the offerings in the marketplace are high-end design pieces or temporary solutions made from cheap cardboard. At Way Basics our material is zBoard, which is also made from recycled paper, but constructed in a way that feels just like a wood engineered board, yet it's up to 70% lighter and just as strong.

Where does the paper for zBoard come from?

zBoards are made in Taiwan. Taiwan as a country recycles over 60% of their paper, much higher than the United States. Because of their lack of resources, paper is also imported to supplement their domestic supply. Taiwan was once a Japanese colony and benefited from inheriting their paper processing technologies. When you feel and touch the zBoard, you will notice its strength and performance qualities. It's kind of like carbon fiber, but for wood.

In what other ways are your products eco-friendly?

The zBoard is made from 100% recycled paper. In the Way Basics product line, to get our colorful bright veneers, we need to use virgin paper, which would comprise of 1% of the total product. Since the zBoards are so light, we are able to ship more in the same amount of space. This reduces carbon emissions and increases efficiency. After its long use, rather than contributing to landfills, you can simply recycle our products or the zBoard. We also work with Carbon Zero to offset emissions through our operations.

There's also a humanitarian component to your business. Can you tell us more about that?

Our furniture is so easy to set up, we have worked with victims of natural disasters to help them get started. We also work with furniture banks around the country to assist in furnishing homes. If you know of any organizations that could use our help, please reach out to us at

To learn more, visit

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