Equipment/Technology

Can potato peels become the hot new eco-friendly building material?

We all eat potatoes but often get rid of the skin or peels.  But two UK-based designers Rowan Minkley and Robert Nicoll use waste potato peelings to create an eco-friendly alternative to single-use materials like Medium-density fibreboard (MDF) and chipboard – which they named as Chip[s] Board.

Shocked by the environmental impact and short lifetime of many readily disposable materials, the two designers set out to develop a material that, if thrown out in the same way, would not have the same negative impact on the environment.

While MDF is a useful material, it is also damaging to the environment, with the UK furniture sector currently disposing of or incinerating 140,000 tonnes of MDF per year, due to the inability to get it recycled.

Both of the designers wanted to connect this issue of material waste with the problem of food waste, which sees a third of all food produced ending up in the garbage bin. The result is a sustainable wood substitute made from the waste potato peelings created from industrial food processing.

After collecting the peelings from manufacturers, they put the raw potato peel through various refinement processes to create a binding agent that can be applied to their fibres – which includes potato skins, bamboo, recycled wood or beer hops.

They then use this to form the material by heat pressing the composite into a robust sheet of the board that can be processed into an array of products, such as furniture and building materials.

Once they have reached the end of their lifespan, Chip[s] Board products can be sent to industrial compost facilities to be biodegraded. They have currently filed a patent for their manufacturing process but aren’t able to disclose many details about the making of the material. However, they explain that the forming and pressing processes mimic the same conditions found in MDF manufacturing, except toxic formaldehyde-based resins are replaced with waste-derived biodegradable binders.

The invention of Chip[s] Board saw Minkley recently announced as the UK’s “most promising young engineering entrepreneur” by the Royal Academy of Engineering Enterprise Hub,  as part of its annual Launchpad Competition, which aims to encourage more youth to start their own engineering businesses.

Source: Krishijagran Media Network