Pontus Törnqvist

Computer Arts - - 15 GAME CHANGERS -

“There’s a grow­ing mar­ket for and recog­ni­tion of de­sign for good,” says De­sign Week ed­i­tor Tom Banks. “It will only get big­ger ex­po­nen­tially as we hur­tle to­wards our own de­struc­tion.” He might sound gloomy, but he’s not. This is partly thanks to the con­tin­ued work of young de­signer Pontus Törnqvist, win­ner of the Swedish leg of 2018’s James Dyson Award and stu­dent of in­dus­trial de­sign at Lund Uni­ver­sity.

Törnqvist's potato plas­tic is a ma­te­rial made from potato starch fab­ri­cated into sin­gleuse items such as cut­lery. Un­like nor­mal plas­tic, it breaks down com­pletely in un­der two months. “While th­ese projects are some­times seen to lack the glam­our, which might war­rant them more at­ten­tion, this will surely change as so­cial de­sign­ers com­mand a more eq­ui­table part of the de­sign land­scape,” says Banks.

Törnqvist be­gan the project as part of his uni­ver­sity course's brief to look at the im­pact of the fast food in­dus­try on the en­vi­ron­ment. “Plas­tic is a great ma­te­rial in many ways,” he says, “but there is an am­bi­gu­ity in us­ing it for dis­pos­able prod­ucts since it gives them the ca­pac­ity to last for 450 years, whereas the pe­riod of use is most com­monly around 20 min­utes”.

The potato as­pect started as a mis­take. “I ex­per­i­mented a lot with sea­weed and tried to find pos­si­ble binders for it, and one of them was potato starch and wa­ter,” he ex­plains. “I ac­ci­den­tally spilled some of the fluid, and later on I found that it had dried to a plas­tic-like film.” Pota­toes weren't just per­fect prop­er­ties-wise, but also be­cause so many of them are grown in his na­tive Swe­den. His fo­cus is on lo­cal pro­duc­tion and cir­cu­lar — rather than lin­ear — pro­duc­tion.

The prod­uct had to look good, too. Its “bub­bly” ap­pear­ance is, again, ac­ci­den­tal, but “I think that'll en­hance the char­ac­ter of it,” he says, adding, “this is a low qual­ity prod­uct sim­ply be­cause I have adapted the ma­te­rial's qual­ity to its pur­pose. They shouldn't be used more than once: to­day's dis­pos­able prod­ucts are much too good for their pur­pose”.

“There’s a grow­ing mar­ket for and recog­ni­tion of de­sign for good” TOM BANKS, DE­SIGN WEEK ED­I­TOR

This page: Törnqvist’s work has led him to experiment with potato plas­tic in dif­fer­ent ma­te­rial forms — forks and salt­bags in­cluded.

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