• 29 January 2020

    The incoming bioplastics

    By Giovanni Perotto – Engineer and Researcher at IIT Giovanni Perotto, Engineer and Researcher at the Italian Institute of Technology, focused his speech on smart materials and bioplastics, presenting a very interesting speech on technologies developed to convert plant residues into bioplastics. In Europe in 2016, 55 million tons of vegetable waste was produced. This waste is unfortunately thrown, composted or incinerated, all solutions with low added value when not expensive.Perotto explained how in a simple carrot there are materials that nature has engineered for the function that the vegetable must carry out: growing, having a structure, working as long as it is needed and then being reintegrated into the environment once its use is over. The macromolecules inside the carrot like cellulose, pectin, lignin and hemicellulose, have the function of supporting the various parts of the vegetable.The focus of the research being carried out regards the ability to harness these properties to produce short-lived objects (single use, packaging) instead of using plastic. The aim is to obtain solutions to be used as an alternative to common plastic, making entire supply chains such as packaging and disposable plastic more sustainable from an environmental point of view. At the same time this will improve the economic sustainability of the food supply chain, turning all the plant biomass, that is currently being disposed, into a resource. These are the focus areas of his research at the Smart Materials laboratory of the Italian Institute of Technology: the development of technologies necessary to carry out this conversion and the work on vegetable waste materials in order to obtain a suitable performance and to facilitate the implementation of new Circular Economy systems.The goal is to convert what is available as a waste from the food industry, but to achieve this we need to get the...
  • 14 January 2020


    By Tiziana Monterisi – RiceHouse CEO RiceHouse is a start-up born in 2016 that tackles the problem related to the construction building sector, that in EU is responsible for 40% of energy consumption, 36% of CO2 emissions and it generates 1/3 of all waste. The problem is widely acknowledged, and EU is setting clear guidelines for a resource-efficient and sustainable circular economy, with the vision of a decarbonised building stock by 2050. In addition, the UN SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) objectives for 2030 are focusing on sustainable cities, responsible consumption, renewable energy and action on climate change. The company produces 100% natural building materials and finishing’s, that derive from by-products from rice cultivation and production. RiceHouse uses raw products such as rice straw, husk and bran, introduces them into the construction cycle and at the end of their service life they return in a circular way to the natural cycle. RiceHouse in an innovative way coordinates and controls a short supply chain, creating new economics from the field to the construction site. The company strongly believes that turning organic waste into a source of value is a key feature of the circular economy and from several years promotes the use of rice by-products from short supply chain. All products developed from the company are highly efficient in terms of energy, 100% natural, formaldeide free and made in Italy. Sustainable and green construction trend is growing fast with a prediction to increase 12% by 2026, with a total value of 254 b€ (50% in Europe). It clearly emerges that the value proposition of Ricehouse has all the features to satisfy the needs of the future demand: it proposes an offer in an economic sector in a phase of change that is based on values already incorporated and shared in different sectors...
  • 8 October 2019

    Understand and Regenerate

    By Barbara Pollini Understand Barbara Pollini started her presentation by mentioning the contemporary philosopher Timothy Morton who coined the term “hyperobjects” to explain those interconnected phenomenons which have a wide vastness in time and space and that are incomprehensible for us. Climate change is one of them. In this perspective, designer’s ability to value material is important for the environmental impact of a product, also, in the complex world, the sustainability is not a steady-state, once it is reached you can’t keep it, it is a  dynamic threshold based on the continuous research. Designers, very often, are focused on some aspects of the project, and they ignore the life-cycle of the products and their materials; there aren’t many Italian universities that push the students to think about these issues and not many corporates of materials that explain information about the life-cycle of materials. Some designers adopt a critical approach and they reinvent some materials in order to find solutions that the market is not able to propose or in order to show a walkable path or an unresolved problem. Among these examples there is “Studio Swine” which created a stool made by plastic recovered at sea. It’s not part of a series production, but it wants to stimulate a critical thinking on an environment issue through the story of a material. At NABA, during Pollini’s lessons, there have been a lot of trials on DIY materials, that are organic or “made in waste”. Some of the projects are virtuous, such as “Peel Saver”, packaging for the street food made by potato’s peel, created by the students: Simone Caronni, Paolo Stefano Gentile and Pietro Gaeli. Also at Politecnico di Milano there are a lot of studies on DIY materials, Pollini is a tutor of the Metaprogetto Lab that took part at the...
  • 23 September 2019

    New trends for circular materials

    Marco Cappellini’s speech is focused on three themes: the production of new materials and their end-life management, the transition to “products as services” and the measurement of the circularity. Trends in corporates According to a report by OCSE, it is estimated that the number of used resources will double by 2060. In particular, this fact involves specific sectors, as the packaging and the fashion ones, that are promising the recycling and the creation of biomaterials starting from 2020/2030. However, there are no doubts about the possibilities of recycling, but there could be problems about who carry out the process: some corporates produce recyclable products, but they are not recycled. For this reason, it exists the idea that the circular economy is uneconomic: but this is not the truth because multiple international cases prove the contrary. New business realities are proposing new custom materials. Many of these start from the principle of being “biomaterials”, material that are easily biodegradable and, or, compostable; there are other recyclable materials that are recyclable only through very specific processes and methods. This is very worrying because, it is possible to order recyclable products, but it is very hard for consumers to manage the end-life of the products. We can say that corporates have to play a more important role in managing the recycling of materials, for example, by creating a clause that specifies the end-life of the products in the patents. Matrec’s example is about a material made of recycled rubber by PFU, that is a very useful material, but it is undervalued. The input is to add value to the material: Matrec worked for new solutions that can improve sound and heat insulation performance, but they are also working on three-dimensionality. The aim is to increase the value of the materials on the market...
  • 7 June 2019


    Plastic is probably humanity’s biggest failure. Even today hundreds of millions of tons are produced, despite the risks it entails, for humans and ecosystems. The solution is biomaterials, substances obtained from organic elements (from fruit to plants, to mushrooms), biodegradable and potentially zero-impact. Let’s find out why today it is increasingly necessary to identify these types of solution and why some companies have already focused their core business on biomaterials. The huge problem of plastics In spite of good intentions and proclamations, the creation of plastic does not seem to stop globally. Historically, the production of this material has established itself in the first decades of the twentieth century and has not stopped growing until at least 2010. Estimates tell us that plastic production has grown from 1.5 million tons, globally, from the 1930s to the 280 million tons in 2010, with a 38% growth in the last 10 years of the reference period. Statista also reports that in 2017 the figure has risen further to 348 million tons. According to the portal, the greatest growth in recent years has occurred in non-European countries: in 2002 global production was in fact 200 million tons (almost half compared to today), but Europe has contributed to this growth “only” for 8 million tons. The quantity of materials deriving from the oil that we put into the environment, therefore, becomes abnormal. According to UNEP, the UN environmental program, 8 million tons of plastic waste ends up in the oceans every year, an enormous amount of material that will remain there for decades, if not centuries. A plastic bag takes 20 years to degrade, while bottles and cutlery can take up to a thousand years. In reality, the problem is even more serious than it seems: in nature, nothing is created and nothing is...
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