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anooi a nourishing intent

6 circular design ideas upcycling food waste for interiors

in sustainable design

Transforming trash into design objects is one of sustainable design’s strategies. The food industry is responsible for creating a lot of waste. But – if looked with positive eyes – this is a rich resource!

The link between food and design has been discussed in general terms during Milan Design Week 2019 at Salone Satellite – the event dedicated to designers under-35. With the theme Food as a Design Object, Salone Satellite has highlighted the overall contribution that design can give to global nutrition challenges, connecting traditions with new technologies.

Likewise, designers have looked into the food industry and come up with sustainable designs that make use of different kinds of waste. So here are 6 projects applying the principles of circular design to the food industry and creating biomaterials out of trash!

View of the SaloneSatellite entrance.
Credit: @morgandotydesign via Instagram

circular designs with food-waste biomaterials

The most common way of getting rid of food waste is composting it. But when put in the right hands, food waste can be upcycled into precious biomaterials for various applications.

peels, grains, grounds

Designer: PensieroMateria by Luca Alessandrini and Henry&Co

PensieroMateria is the founder of the Italian Manifesto of Bio-Design, whose aim is researching biomaterials for sustainable design. So far they’ve worked with tomatoes, mushrooms, coffee, corn, clay and oranges.

Arco2020 is a lamp made out of Wascoffee: a biomaterial derived from coffee grounds. Coffee waste has been provided by Autogrill, the company that owns the majority of motorway service areas in Italy… and therefore makes a lot of coffees every day!

Arc-shaped lamp made with coffee grounds, sitting on a table.
Credit: PensieroMateria

Tomato peels sourced in Sicily are the starting point for another biomaterial, that has then been 3D printed in the shape of little crates and other kitchen utensils.

Circular design kitchen utensils: a plate, cutlery and a small crate made out of tomato peels.
Credit: #pensieromateria via Instagram
Close up of the tomato peels biomaterial.
Credit: Luca Alessandrini

And then, the stunning Peel chandelier. Peel is made of orb: a biomaterial obtained from orange peels and other organic waste. What’s interesting is that – since the binder is also organic – this material is actually edible! No guarantee that it would taste any good though…

Circular design chandelier made of an organic waste-based biomaterial.
Credit: PensieroMateria
Close up of the organic waste-based biomaterial.
Credit: Luca Alessandrini

coffee grounds

Designer: Melbourne Movement

Coffee grounds are a very abundant resource that normally goes to waste. But when mixed with a binder, they become a strong and versatile biomaterial!

The Australian collective Melbourne Movement has sourced coffee grounds locally and used them to make a fully biodegradable stool that actually smells like coffee! Re.Bean Coffee Stool is clearly keeping with the theme of the event. And indeed, it has won the Intesa San Paolo Prize at Salone Satellite.

Circular stool made out of coffee grounds.
Credit: Melbourne Movement (via ElleDecor)


Designer: Philipp Hainke

In his Organico project, Philipp Hainke has mixed casein with lime and water, creating a glue to keep hemp fibres and shives in place. The resulting panels can be the starting point for several projects. For example, when mounted on a steel structure, they become the Halo chair, winner of the second prize at Salone Satellite Award.

Chair with seating made with hemp panel bonded together with a casein-based glue.
Closeup of the hemp-based material bonded with a casein-based glue.
Credits: Philipp Hainke


Designer: Philipp Hainke

Jelly Joint is not really using waste, but it’s still very well responding to the Food as a Design Object brief. Philipp Hainke has experimented with gummy bear candies and noticed that they become extremely sticky once heated. So sticky that they would actually work as a glue! Therefore, he has produced a bench using only gummy-bears glue to assemble the pieces! For the sake of the experiment, he has used more glue than necessary, so that leftovers would spill out of the joints doubling as decoration!

Close up of the wooden pieces kept together with a candy-based glue.
Wooden bench kept together with a candy-based glue.
Credits: Philipp Hainke

tackling other food industry waste with circular design

Despite being the first that comes to mind, food waste is not the only type of waste generated by the food industry. And circular economy principles apply throughout.

So let’s explore some projects that use food-related leftovers other than food waste.


Designer: KuliKuli

Kobe is a Japanese town famous for its meat. And when talking meat there’s a lot of waste involved. For example, cowhides normally go to waste. But KuliKuli has created leather out of them. This material can fit a number of different applications and its broad potential earned it the first prize at Salone Satellite Award!

Close up of the cowhide-based leather.
Credit: KuliKuli (via ElleDecor)

banana fibre

Designer: Studiomirei

Agricultural waste is certainly one of the biggest sources of waste in the food industry. For example, the stem of banana plants would normally be trashed, but not anymore. When properly peeled, the bark of banana trees can be turned into a fibre. Thanks to its various thicknesses (changing according to the part of the stem), banana fibre is suitable for textile applications in all industries, from design to fashion. A great design example is the ethereal Nebula lampshade, which has received a special mention at Salone Satellite Award.

Ceiling lamps made of banana fibre.
Close up of the banana fibre.
Credits: Studiomirei (via Instagram)

As they say, waste is a design flaw . And an increasing number of designers from all over the world are proving how true this is!

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