Monday, 19 November 2018


Two Kingston University graduates have created an environmentally-friendly, sustainable and biodegradable alternative to MDF, produced from potato peelings. 

Graphic design graduates Rob Nicol and Rowan Minkley are the team behind Chip[s] Board - a potato-based product turning food waste material from restaurants into a robust ready-to-use chipboard-like sheet, according to the University.

The environmentally-friendly product is strong enough to construct temporary structures designed to last more than a month. 

"We have some samples that are over a year old now - It lasts as a material without degrading," Rowan explained. "We could build a product with a lifespan of three to five years or provide the stands, stalls and even some temporary accommodation for a summer festival. We want to reduce the amount of materials that are used only once and then chucked in a skip - Chip[s] Board is designed to break down quickly in an industrial compost."

The pair extracted starch from potatoes in a successful attempt to make potato plastic. This left them with a large amount of peelings with which they were keen to experiment and minimize any residual waste.

They realized that once baked for an extended period, the mulch produced from the potato waste became a solid form that held its shape. "Initially we were looking into making biodegradable plant pots. We were keeping giant bags of potatoes in the back garden and using industrial blenders to prepare the mulch for baking," Minkley from Bath said.

Five kilograms of potato peelings produce one kilogram of Chip[s] Board; this means potato peelings were needed in large quantities in the development process. One of the next steps is to source a regular, large-scale source of peelings. "We're looking to work with companies like McCains or Lamb Weston - brands that are used in restaurants and at home. If we can collect all of their waste, we can turn it into something of high value," Nicol said.

The product was developed with assistance from Kingston School of Art's Incubator program led by graphic design lecturer Zoe Bather, with support from the design school's director of enterprise Kieran O'Connor. The initiative gives final year graphic design students the opportunity to expand upon their entrepreneurial ideas with access to industry expertise. "The program is guided by the students," Bather explained.

On the surface, Chip[s] Board may not seem like the average graphic design project, however Bather explained the product also needed their more traditional skills. "Chip[s] Board merges product design and material invention, but they also needed to employ a lot of core graphic design skills," she noted. "They have created a brand and a website, they are marketing their product while telling an audience their story - all things integral to graphic design and communication," she said.

Having shared their idea at the University's Manufactory event, the duo currently have a residency at Makerversity, a creative workspace for designers and entrepreneurs based at London's Somerset House, and are focused on making the product a success. "It would be amazing to see Chip[s] Board replace MDF at universities and schools," Minkley said.

 "We have also discussed the possibility of producing refugee emergency housing using Chip[s] Board," Minkley continued. "A temporary village could be constructed quickly and cheaply while drastically cutting down on the waste materials normally left behind. We want this product to make a positive impact on the world and inspire more young people to find creative solutions to world issues." 

Related articles: 

Lamb Weston Announces Plans in Packaging Recycling and Reducing Waste 

Research for Reusing Potato Processing Waste 

Protein Recovery from Potato Processing Stream Waste Using Membrane Technology

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