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Implementation of Recycled Thermoplastics into Furniture Design
The main problem with wasting polymers is the negative environmental impact they create when compared to the reduced amount of time they are used. Currently, polymers are the best materials for packaging and transportation purposes. They are light, inexpensive, easily malleable, strong, resistant to environmental changes, and very durable. All these good features allowed the plastic to replace other traditional options with less environmental impact, such as wood, paper, cardboard or glass. Thermoplastics demand will continue to grow through the years; therefore, recycling assumes itself as a possibility that has to be increasingly implemented. The furniture is a promising product to combine with recycled thermoplastics. Its long life creates a perfect contrast to the common short-term use of many thermoplastic products. To promote and disseminate the importance of implementing recycled plastic products, it is necessary to design objects that meet the current needs of consumers. This objective is difficult to achieve since in today's society, the availability of recycled material is limited, its processing has some constraints, and most of the products obtained are not appealing to consumers. In the Master Program of Product and Industrial Design of University of Porto, in the curricular units of project design, and product and industrial design, students are encouraged to develop products taking into account issues related to sustainability and eco-design. The other curricular units of the master's degree contribute to the projects in progress, providing and criticizing the choices made by students considering the lectures taught. After completing the project, students have the possibility to develop in their dissertations the products, aimed at their industrialization, with or without industrial partners. This communication presents the project developed by one of the students, with the support of the workshops of the two Faculties that teach the master's degree. After several brainstorming sessions, it was decided that a seating stool would be the furniture to be designed and developed. The stool is one of the simplest and oldest form of portable human support. The object involves all the physical and mechanical challenges, since it must support an average human body weight. In addition, given the average dimensions, it is easy to make a real scale prototype. All the development stages of the seating tripod stool product that was conceived using thermoplastic waste are presented. The manufacturing methods were implemented at an experimental level. They may be considered craftmanship actions and had no focus towards mass-production. The stool has a recycled HDPE seat and threaded solid beech wood legs. The flat surface promotes the use as a side or small table besides seating. However, when several artefacts are seen together, they invite the user in joining them to create diverse combinations or patterns. The stool’s seat achieved an attractive and unique colour pattern that evokes curiosity on the material’s origin, thus, it promotes and raises awareness of the benefits of implementing recycled thermoplastics in furniture design.