WIP/Maker: Developing compostable composites: A multidisciplinary approach towards sustainable material adoption

Research output: Contribution to journalConference Articlepeer-review


Engineering design is a human-centric discipline that seeks to produce products, services, and systems that enrich and improve people's lives. Designers can influence the way we feel about ourselves, how we interact with others, and how we feel about the world around us. Conversely, we can create negative effects; most notably, landfill waste. With a burgeoning world population, much attention is focused on how we sustainably use our ever-decreasing supply of materials. This project was framed within the context of low-cost flat-pack furniture, which is typically made from non-biodegradable particleboard. The end-of-life for particleboard is landfill or incineration. The overarching research goal of this project was to determine whether post-consumer paper and a bioplastic binder were suitable for the creation of a more environmentally friendly composite (than its traditional particleboard counterpart) that has future potential to be composted with food waste. Specifically, we aimed to (1) empirically test how this composite performs under standard material testing methods in comparison to a low-density chipboard, (2) determine to what extent these composites can be produced and used without the need for specialist equipment, and (3) begin to investigate the triple bottom line (social, environmental and financial) though various life cycle analysis methods. From the environmental perspective, employing a circular design approach (utilizing waste from other industries, in this case, used paper) the environmental question becomes: can we create a material of 'value' that makes some progress towards reducing manufacturing carbon emission? The novelty of this research lies in the pairing of mechanical material testing with usability testing with research study participants who might work with novel materials. Undergraduate design students were recruited to evaluate composite material samples for ease of machining and fastening.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jun 15 2019
Event126th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition: Charged Up for the Next 125 Years, ASEE 2019 - Tampa, United States
Duration: Jun 15 2019Jun 19 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering


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