Chilean startup transforms trash into treasure

Just two months old, green startup De Tal Pallet combines aesthetically appealing furniture with a positive environmental impact.

As Chilean society shows increasing concern for the environment and sustainability, Marlene Gómez and Alejandro Benítez’s spotted a great opportunity for their innovative new furniture and home decor venture. Their Santiago-based company, De Tal Pallet, is converting discarded materials into beautiful and functional pieces perfect for any home and designed for every taste.

The lifeblood of the furniture is, as the name suggests, recycled wooden pallets. Gómez and Benítez, both 25, invite us into an eco-friendly world of recyclable materials, minimalistic design, personalization and plenty of imagination.

The green-minded pair believes that attitudes towards sustainability are changing for the better, with people seeking out new ways to play their part in creating a more sustainable world.

“We’ve already reached the phase as a country in which we’re all aware of the importance of recycling. But I think now more than ever people are actually actively doing something about it, with various government initiatives encouraging recycling,” Gómez told This is Chile.

Gómez believes that people who care about doing something positive for the environment will be drawn to their furniture.

“We thought, what better way to further solidify your commitment to the environment than by bringing sustainability right into your home?” she added.

The entrepreneurs use discarded wooden pallets to construct the simple furniture, which ranges from coffee tables, chairs, and even coat hangers to more decorative elements, such as mirrors and picture frames.

After being used for the handling and storage of goods or shipping containers, pallets are often abandoned, lying in heaps outside large cities. Noticing this, the innovative young couple travel to the area of Lampa, close to Santiago’s airport, to collect the large pallets for their green-thinking project. All retrieved materials are then cleaned up before being used.

“Although pallets are generally an easy material to work with, we take hygiene very seriously and ensure a thorough cleaning process,” she explained. “After using special disinfectants on the wood, we polish it and take the measurements required for each design. We then add any final touches such as painting or incorporating materials like glass.”

Their complementary professional backgrounds — Gómez is a graphic designer and Benítez a painter — enhance the quality of their work and foster creative ideas and solutions.

“Alejandro draws the designs by hand based on the customer’s specific requirements and I put them onto the Illustrator [computer] program in more detail before he begins building the piece,” Gómez said.

It’s important to the designers to combine environmental sustainability with an aesthetic design. To this end, customization is a big part of their services, because they care about creating something that satisfies the customer on all levels.

“We try to make simple furniture without ornaments or too many colors. Of course we take the customer’s specific tastes into account but it’s important for us to show-off the simplicity of the material itself by maintaining an equally simple design,” she said.

Personalization is actually a big part of our service because people care about matching a new piece with their existing furniture or decorations and color scheme at home. They can specify the design, dimensions, colors, type of paint and so on.”

Their offerings are not just about the appearance but also being functional, as their best-seller proves.

“At the moment our ‘star’ product is the coffee table. People really like the fact that it’s got small wheels so its versatile and easy to move around from inside to outdoors,” Gómez shared.

Thanks to Gomez’s commitment in promoting their business, it’s already becoming popular with students and young professionals. Apart from traditional magazine publicity, they also spread the word by collaborating with others, such as with the environmental-themed ‘EcoCity’ smartphone application.

De Tal Pallet’s first public exhibition was at Bio Feria, on October 12th, a fair in Santiago with the theme of recycling and sustainability. The pair hopes that they will soon be able to invite people to their own space such as a workshop, or even to set up their own store.

By Daphne Karnezis