Andrew Dent of Material ConneXion, Inc. gave a talk at ETech about dreaming up new materials that help us create more sustainable products. Part of that includes rethinking natural products and getting creative with things like...degraded carrots. Dent pointed out that if we want to create stuff that is sustainable, we have to look at how nature sustains itself, and that obviously leads us to the fact that everything has to be recyclable or compostable.
We also need to get manufacturers to recognize that there is value in the materials used in the products they're selling to you, so they should want them back. Designers need to design in the idea that whatever they're creating will be pulled apart. So, the issue is what materials to use. Here is where natural materials are getting interesting.
For instance, creating composites from chicken feathers. Here, the material can even be used for printed circuit boards.
Or there's degraded carrots. Turns out, they create a material that is perfect for replacing carbon fiber for things like fishing rods, and might even be used in bike frames, or even furniture.
One great thing about material innovation is it is allowing us to head towards simplification of what we create. For instance, a high quality plastic can eliminate the need to paint it, such as with the Smart car. Another example Dent gave is Crocs shoes, which are injection molded so that only one material is used, and this kind of innovation could create things that can be recycled, and therefore have zero waste.
Dent also stated that we need to think of waste as raw materials, and the mining of landfills is not a far off concept.
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