What do a pair of shorts, a floor lamp and a fruit basket have in common? They're all made from plastic Coca-Cola crates, by design students in Finland.

Coca-Cola recently challenged a group of 16 international students from the Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture to put 2,000 Coca-Cola crates to new use during an experimental design course. The crates were cut, melted, pressed and pulverized, turning them into all sorts of imaginative new objects.

With this project, Coca-Cola hopes to involve the next generation of artists, designers and entrepreneurs in the circular economy. All too often, plastic packaging is considered as waste after its original use, and not as a valuable resource that can be used over and over again.

Find out more about all the designs, methods and tools in the booklet.

The future of plastic

The students let their imaginations run wild, resulting in a host of creative products and uses of materials. Some turned melted plastics into thin, cloth-like fabrics. Other creations included a floor lamp, a seat cover, a room divider a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, all made entirely from plastic. A few students were even inspired to create a musical sound track — "the sound of plastics" — with an accompanying video installation.

Anna van der Lei, university lecturer contemporary design at Aalto University, says: "These creations show the infinite possibilities of plastic if you put your mind to it. This course has been a celebration of creativity, with Coca-Cola red as the running thread."

Talking about the course and the potential for the circular economy, Ulrike Sapiro, director of sustainability for Coca-Cola Western Europen, says: "The future of plastic begins on the designer's drawing table. It requires re-thinking the design of material that, in turn, continues to offer almost limitless potential for innovation. Today, designers are key to unlocking this potential, and turning the knowledge of this single-use material into a new and desired commodity that will benefit the world."

The students' learnings are compiled into a collective library. This open-source booklet illustrates 100 sample uses of recycled plastic, with descriptions of the methods and tools used. It is aimed to serve as a source of inspiration for future students, and the cover is made from Coca-Cola crates.

The students' work was on display Sept. 11-17 during Helsinki Design Week.