In a world increasingly concerned with sustainability and greening, the South African
live events industry continues to evolve to stay in line with this type of demand on our
businesses. At Gearhouse Group, several initiatives are in place to mitigate the
companies’ impact on the environment and improve the sustainability of the

Sets Drapes Screens (SDS), a part of the Gearhouse Group, has been very active in
finding ways to recycle the waste associated with set manufacture. Bespoke set
pieces designed for once-off use on events are a frequent request, and with storage
limited to stock pieces, the reality is that many sets are destroyed and thrown away
as soon as the event is over.

The SDS branches have initiated recycling programmes in the immediate vicinity of
each of the workshops, and the scrapped set pieces are donated at designated drop-
off points for use by the community. This has been very successful and greatly
appreciated by local residents, who use the materials in their own homes. Recently,
the Cape Town branch of SDS has taken things a step further.

According to Thomas Wood, draughtsman at SDS’s Cape Town facility in Bellville, the
offcuts he saw in the factory kept nagging at his conscience, and he couldn’t help but
feel that the solution could be taken to another level. “While walking in the factory, I
would constantly see off-cuts of board being thrown into the skip. It is impossible to
keep all the off-cuts as the pile builds up so quickly that it takes over the much-
needed manufacturing space. I decided to come up with a new idea to proactively
make use of the off-cuts. After a brainstorming session with branch manager Burger
Smith, I created a 3D drawing, some CNC layouts and the first chair “# tag’ came into
being. The natural progression was, of course, “why not create a table as well?’ Once
I had come up with a plan, I made the stool and table components interchangeable
using a flat pack design.’

At the moment, SDS is moving forward with the idea of creating stools and tables
using predominantly 16mm MDF offcuts, but the longer-term aim for Thomas is to
come up with a set of five unique designs. “We also have a lot of thinner 9mm and
6mm offcuts, and I am thinking about moving into designing some modular lighting
fixtures, with a similar look and feel.’

The first orders are in production and are attracting a lot of attention with their fresh
and funky take on traditional pieces. “The materials are offcuts, so we are able to
keep the pricing low. That won’t change unless clients need a large volume order
which necessitates the purchase of specific materials. These pieces are creative and
different and are being taken up by clients for both offices and exhibition stands, but
at the moment the uptake by our own staff has been phenomenal, we can’t make
them fast enough,’ he laughs.

For the moment, the SDS offcuts are assuming a life of their own, but they may well
become a part of the SDS offering nationwide. “This method of cutting down on waste
will most likely become part of the SDS ethos’ adds Thomas. “Being the creative
people we are, this could lead to other opportunities. Who knows where it will end up?
As Edwin Land says, “An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail.’ And
we have nothing to lose but waste.’