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Your next sofa could be built out of potato

A soggy pile of potato offcuts might not seem a likely birthplace for a “materials revolution”, but it has already begun – the trimmings and skins from our favourite vegetable could form furniture and fittings to help create a more positive, ‘circular’ approach to material use.

Last week, 23-year-old Rowan Minkley was named the UK’s most promising young engineering entrepreneur by the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Enterprise Hub. The co-founder and CEO of Chip[s] Board won the JC Gammon award worth £15,000 for his company’s innovative work converting potato into three sustainable new materials – Parblex, a bioplastic for fashion and interior design, and two particulate boards designed for furniture, fittings, temporary events and interior design.

Chip strand board (CSB) is positioned as an alternative to environmentally unfriendly medium-density fibreboard (MDF). Used extensively in furniture and fittings, MDF is non-biodegradable despite being roughly 80% wood fibre.

Chip[s] Board says that none of its products contains toxic chemicals, and they are created with low water use and no production waste. One square metre of chip particle board – positioned as a composite plastic alternative – requires 2,200 potato skins or the waste from 200 bags of chips.

Minkley says: “The amount of positive responses from people makes us believe that what we are doing will create a revolution in the materials industry, and other people think there’s a demand for this too.”

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