The project is an attempt to create as a final object a reflection of the circularity of the environment in a consumer perspective. In order to do so a biocompatible composite material was explored through material processes belonging to the plastic properties of clay, applied to cardboard paper pulp. The outcome resulted in an economically viable, low energy and resource consuming material aiming to have a range of scalable applications in homeware, packaging, hospitality and agriculture.
The material consists of discarded cardboard and Cassava starch sourced locally around Dalston's Ridley road market, a predominantly Caribbean and Jamaican market. Cassava or Yam is a high yield starchy tuberous root that needs little water and no pesticides to cultivate, this makes it a good candidate for bioplastics and biofuels around the world as well as being central central to the diet of subtropical countries. The project was born from a frustration with the failure of plastic recycling and a radical approach to seeing the future eradication of the material. Recycling is an industry worth millions and is a utopian thought to think of a closed loop system where no material is discarded and all is recycled. In western society very little of what is gone to waste is then recycled, therefore tonnes of plastic waste go to landfill polluting soil and posing a threat to wildlife.
In the project compostability is seen as the ultimate recycling process, where the material undergoes a closed loop system by eventually going back to the ground. The research on bioplastics brought to the disillusionment of bioplastics because of toxic waste used to produce a truly waterproof material. After a series of experiments creating DIY bioplastics using cornstarch the attention shifted towards composite materials. Cardbond, developed during the first lockdown, had to be composed of materials sourced locally and the only workshop available was a household kitchen. The latter resulted in a material that needs little energy and processes to be produced. The absence of workshops and therefore the inability to physically test the application of the material gave space to speculate in-depth on possible applications. The latter was explored with animated 3D illustrations.
Having the consistency of wood, Cardbond can be used to build furniture due to its structural properties as well as waterproofed vessels for vases, plant pots or bowls. The waterproofing was informed by an extensive research on biocompatible materials and the most successful of them all, regarding price, provenance and effectiveness was a rosin based pitch. The pitch, used to waterproof wooden boats before the industrial revolution, consists of Rosin a byproduct of turpentine with added powdered clay and natural earth pigments.
The material is currently being tested to substitute Rock wool in hydroponic systems as a vehicle for plant rooting in collaboration with the Greenlab in London, home to residencies around the theme of hydroponic cultures and alternative ways of farming. The colouring of Cardbond and the rosin pitch was informed by an extensive research on natural pigments and is still a work in progress. Initially charcoal powder was used to give a black aspect to the material, but concerns over the provenance of charcoal wood brought the attention to other pigments such as iron oxides and natural earth pigments.
The making process consists in mulching the cardboard in water, blending it and then mixing it with a pre-cooked cassava glue. The mixture obtains a clay like quality and can therefore be moulded using the slab building technique. The material is placed evenly on a flat surface and dried to a malleable point. Once the slab is malleable the surface can be cut and shaped in different fashions. The waterproofing consists in melting the rosin pitch over a hob, adding clay powder and a drop of vegetable oil. The rosin pitch is then applied by pouring and using a heat gun to even it out.
Cardboard, cassava starch, iron oxides, rosin, clay, vegetable oil, natural earth pigments.
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Afra Zamara for the set