(855) 321-7473

M-F 9am-4pm Eastern

Chips Board

What is the Circular Economy? Chip[s] Board® Potato Peel Products

By Tobias RobertsRise Writer
Feb 10, 2019

What is the circular economy? As the sustainable building movement gains steam, more and more companies are beginning to develop innovative home improvement products that are manufactured in a more sustainable fashion. Recycling and salvaging used products into beautiful, vintage home products, for example, is an industry in and of itself. However, the thought of recycling old food scraps into high-performance interior design elements might seem like a bit of a stretch.

In the recent book on practical solutions to reverse global climate warming titled Drawdown, food waste is identified as one of the biggest greenhouse gas emitters. In fact, reducing food waste could potentially lead to over 70 gigatons of carbon dioxide reduction. While eating the food on your plate is one easy way to cut back on food waste, what about those banana peels, apple cores, and potato skins that you wouldn’t normally eat? Is that waste?

One innovative company, Chip[s] Board® has addressed this issue and recently begun manufacturing different types of household materials for interior design—from industrial potato waste.

Chips Board Production Line
Chips Board Production Line

What is the Circular Economy and How Does it Pertain to the Sustainable Home Industry?

Our globalized economy is structured as a “take, make, and dispose of” model. In the words of economist Herman Daly, the natural world is unfortunately seen as an infinite mine of natural materials and raw products to supply us with consumer goods and an endless sink that will hopefully absorb the waste from our consumer civilization. Unfortunately, we tend to forget that our economies are enclosed within a natural system with very real limits and boundaries.

As we collectively attempt to create more sustainable economic models, we will have to change the linear model of production, which focuses on extraction, manufacture, use, and disposal. The idea of a circular economy, on the other hand, attempts to reduce energy and material loops within a functioning economic model. More specifically, a circular economy focuses on the long-lasting design of materials and designing waste out of the system while maintaining the quality of life for consumers and creating steady flows of revenues for businesses.

According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the Circular Economy is based on three principles:

  • Design out waste and pollution
  • Keep products and materials in use
  • Regenerate natural systems

The sustainable building industry is an important component of the circular economic model. From salvaged wood products for the interior or exterior of your home to recycled plastic outdoor furniture, there are dozens of innovative and environmentally responsible ways to incorporate recycled and “upcycled” products into your living space. Similarly, the sustainable building industry is also making an effort to reduce waste through recycling building and construction debris, which is expected to account for an astonishing one billion tons of solid waste year from 2025 onwards. Sustainable housing standards and design strategies can help a home become a regenerative part of the surrounding landscape through erosion control systems, more sustainable landscaping options, and greywater recycling systems.

What is the Chip[s] Board® Company?

Founded by Rowan Minkley and Robert Nicoll, the Chip[s] Board® Company is based out of the United Kingdom and is working to create a sustainable alternative to medium density fiberboard (MDF), a common interior household product that comes with several environmental problems, identified below.

According to their website, the Chip[s] Board® Company team’s “philosophy is that a circular economy in waste (byproduct) management and material production will create a new sustainable model, utilizing the abundant resources we currently have rather than continually processing virgin materials.” 

According to Rob Nicoll, CPO & co-founder, "materials often need to have short lives, so our vision is to create materials that work with the cycles of nature, not against it."

Instead of cutting down virgin forest to plant fast-growing monoculture stands of timber to have a steady source of wood pulp for the construction and lumber industries—which reduces wildlife habitat, among other things—the Chip[s] Board® Company has found that potato waste can be transformed into a recycled, useful, durable, and beautiful product that mimics composite wood products such as medium density fiberboard.

The Chip[s] Board® team has teamed up with McCain, one of the largest potato producers in the UK, who provides the company with a steady stream of raw materials (potato waste) for material production. Currently, they are in the process of designing and creating several innovative and sustainable circular economy materials using potato waste, including lampshades and milk stools.

Unlike certain biofuels that have come under scrutiny for utilizing large amounts of land and edible food to create fuel, such as ethanol, to power, the cars, the Chip[s] Board® Company does not utilize any edible potato chips in their products. Rather, they rely on non-food-grade industrial potato waste for the manufacture of their products.

Chips Board Products
Chips Board Products

Chip[s] Board® Products

While Chip[s] Board® is working with several different designers, engineers, and inventors to develop new uses for the alternative particle board they offer, they currently plan to market three other products.

  • Chip Particle Board (CPB): This particulate board can be used for various interior design projects, including wall partitions. In some cases, it might replace reliance on MDF products such as baseboard, trim, and molding for interiors. This fine-grain rigid board has a smooth surface finish, which makes it desirable for designers and inventors—and they are looking for more to use their product. It comes available in a range of natural pigments, thus removing the need for further painting or sealing and thus limiting potential VOC issues in your home. 
  • Chip Strand Board (CSB): This is another type of particulate board manufactured from potato waste. In contrast to the product mentioned above, the CSB particulate board CSB is a smooth fiberboard with incredible surface finish and tensile strength, which can also be used for interior design.
  • Parblex (PBX): This material is a bioplastic that is designed to be used primarily in the fashion industry for accessories and fastenings. This translucent bioplastic also has a smooth surface finish as well.

Chip[s] Board® is still developing more products, but they worth keeping an eye on as a potential supplier for cool, sustainable home products. You can sign up here to be notified when these products become commercially available.

Sustainability Benefits

MDF particleboard, flooring, molding, and other products are often imbued with formaldehyde and other chemical additives that can reduce the quality of the air you breathe inside your home. On the other hand, the products developed by Chip[s] Board® on the other hand, are durable, recyclable, biodegradable, and do not emit any harmful VOCs into your home. They contain no toxic chemicals and have been explicitly designed to create a stronger circular economy for materials. It’s an exciting example of what innovators can do—and homeowners can expect to see more of it in the future—as we work to transform our wasteful economy into a circular economy.

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2021-07-09T11:54:16+0000
Tobias Roberts

Article by:

Tobias Roberts

Tobias runs an agroecology farm and a natural building collective in the mountains of El Salvador. He specializes in earthen construction methods and uses permaculture design methods to integrate structures into the sustainability of the landscape.