“No Excuses”: Central Saint Martins and UPM Biochemicals team up to show industry the significance of renewable, circular product design.

Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London and UPM Biochemicals have embarked on a ground-breaking design collaboration to demonstrate how industry can make the urgent shift away from manufacturing products with materials based on fossil fuels to renewable, circular materials.

A team of 50 product and industrial design students from Central Saint Martins reimagined a range of everyday products – typically produced from fossil-based materials. Embracing the trio of reduced material use, introduction of new, more sustainable materials and supporting recyclability, the concepts were imagined using UPM’s bio-based materials produced from sustainably sourced hardwood. The results have all enabled the more environmentally-friendly manufacturing of multiple products – from footwear, fashion and outdoor pursuits to furniture and personal transportation.

The aim of the competition was to demonstrate there are “no excuses” anymore for industries not to shift their supply chains towards renewable circularity by consuming less, using renewable sources and ensuring that products can remain in the value chain after their useful life.

The winning eight designs featured radical new products like an outdoors survival kit for camping made of fully recyclable components, a sustainably sourced and recyclable snowboarding binding, a fully circular furniture set and motorcycle protective gear that is low cost, sustainably sourced, repairable and recyclable.

UPM Biochemicals, who are supporting Central Saint Martins across the project, is at the forefront of developing innovative, sustainable, and competitive wood-based biochemicals for replacing fossil-based raw materials. UPM is building an industrial scale biorefinery in Leuna, Germany to convert solid wood into next generation biochemicals. The €1.18 billion investment will help accelerate the transition to a circular bioeconomy – one where renewable feedstocks, sustainable production and sustainable consumption are the new normal.

“Ultimately societies all around the world will need to embrace a culture of sufficiency and innovate to decouple resource use and environmental impact,” said Martin Ledwon, Vice President Sustainability at UPM Biorefining. “Design will play a key role in accomplishing that by advancing new materials, reducing material use and enabling concepts such as modularity, repairability, reusability and recyclability.”

Each design was evaluated by a team of expert judges, including from Dezeen and Central Saint Martins for their design quality, contribution to renewable circularity, commercial viability, and their potential to disrupt conventional thinking in multiple industries. UPM Biochemicals will help connect the winners with mentors going forwards.

“At the core of our programme lies our manifesto, which guides our approach to design and how it interacts with society,” said Nick Rhodes, Programme Director, Product Ceramic and Industrial Design, Central Saint Martins. “While we work with tangible objects, our primary focus is on the needs and connections between people and the world. Through materials, processes, and techniques, we strive to design for positive social impact. We are dedicated to nurturing creative ambition, fostering collaboration and embracing making as a transformative practice that benefits individuals, enterprises and the environment.”

All of the winners will be displayed at Design Transforms ’23 from 11 September to 15 October, an exhibition that is part of the London Design Festival.