In Melbourne, cook your own chair

MELBOURNE -- A 21-year-old design student has created a 'cook at home' biodegradable chair.

MELBOURNE -- Design student Dale Hardiman has won the 2012 Green Inventors award for the Kid’s Straw Stool, a biodegradable chair that sprouts and grows at the end of its life.

Originally designed in July 2011, the Straw Stool is made from wheat starch, water, vinegar, glycerol, pea straw and grass seeds. The total cost of the ingredients is a mere (AUS)$21.

The addition of the grass seeds in the stool helps to promote growth in the land once the piece of furniture is no longer needed. From grass, to fruit to flowers, Hardiman has indicated that any kind of seed could be implanted in the 'furniture-making' process.

A DIY product, the Kid's Straw Stool needs to be cooked, something that can be done in a household kitchen, in less than five hours, using a saucepan and oven.

The award-winning product was part of a second-year RMIT University project which called for students to design a sustainable object.

After experimenting with wheat starch plastic for over a month, Hardiman created a consistency that was first used to produce a wine stand with the capacity to hold two kilos (the weight of an average wine bottle). He then applied the same principles to create the biodegradable chair. He describes the process in detail here:

After adding dirt, grass, polenta, rope, coffee and rice, I realized the material needed something with an inconsistency. After adding pea straw, I saw that the long strands gave the chair structure, while the smaller parts gave it holding strength. Once the cone shapes were made (Kid's Straw Stool legs), I heated them until they were solid, and tested the weight with some perspex to see whether it would hold the two kilos. After adding more and more perspex on the three cone shapes I found that they could hold 40 kilos without buckling. Placing them in a triangular position allowed for the seat to be added. All four components were joined together using a needle and thread.

Starch plastic has been used before, such as the production of disposable cutlery, plates and bowls, but Hardiman believes that this is the first time that starch-based plastic has been applied to a DIY furniture design.

Hardiman, now in the third year of his design degree, hopes that his creation will bring awareness of the environment to children at a young age.

“We live in a world of vast consumerism, and in the realm of children's furniture, the life of a product is considerably short compared to the value of the material.”

The Kid’s Straw Stool by Dale Hardiman measures 290mm (height) x 270mm (width) x 270mm (depth) and weighs between one to two kilos.

Photo: Francesca Raft

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