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Office furniture with a business case for recycling

Date published: 29 | 3 | 19

In late 2017, we saw an opportunity to combine complementing technologies, ECOR’s only natural fiber based panels with DSM-Niaga’s click-and-unclick adhesive to create fully recyclable, healthier alternatives to particleboard.

Recently, the first DSM-Niaga® ECOR® Panels (NEPs) made from residual materials were delivered to the Makers community, a growing group of professional designers, scientists and craftsmen to creatively test the product. NEPs were created as an alternative to MDF, particleboard, fiberboard or foamboard.

We are convinced that the NEP will make fully circular furniture production a proven reality and a matter of choice, one we anticipate conscious consumers will be eager for.

Circular Design and Conscious Consumerism can solve the Garbage Crisis

The garbage crisis is far reaching and across the globe headlines are touting the importance of eliminating single use plastics. While the debate about what to do about plastics ensues in the public domain, we are designing out the concept of single use products, the concept of waste, period.  In addition to thinking about the downstream impact from a plastic water bottle tossed into the bin, ponder the chair you’re sitting on, the kitchen table in your home, the armoire that stores your clothes. Where will those items go once you are done using them? The answer: most often to the landfill or the incinerator. The reason being, the materials used and the design practically guarantee only one life (user-) cycle. Materials glued together for eternity in MDF and particle board are unable to be recycled. That’s true for most of the furniture available today - it is not recyclable and therefore just another item for the landfill or incinerator.

Human ingenuity coupled with the emerging trend of conscious consumerism will enable us to re-design our way out of a health and environmental disaster that grows worse with every passing day. Demand for circular materials for construction and furnishing is rapidly growing, however there are only a few scalable alternatives for panels. As we build capability to effectively transform trash into desirable new products and materials, without compromising on design, quality or performance we give new life to a material and a new way of design.

“Panels have been on the redesign hit list of Niaga since the start, as one of the top 10 landfill waste items. Together with ECOR we believe to have found a commercially scalable alternative, using waste as input material and allowing for full recyclability into new panels.” says Kelly Hall Managing Director of DSM-Niaga

 

ECOR & DSM-Niaga partnership

We are constantly looking for material partners who share our design philosophy and our quest for transparency in ingredients. In late 2017, we announced the collaboration between ECOR and Niaga, to research viable, circular panel materials. From our factory in Venlo, we recently delivered the first truckload of panels for distribution to a selected group of early partners, known as the Makers Community.

“Being part of this community of makers is uplifting, both in practice and in spirit. They show the design potential of our material beyond my imagination.”  says Eric Logtens Corporate Director Circular Economy & CEO ECOR Europe.

 

The new Ecor factory, an old industry building in Venlo, The Netherlands. On the left the first two panel presses.

 

Alwin Papegaaij (Application Development Specialist DSM-Niaga) and Bas Holla (Technical Director ECOR) inspecting test NEPs.

 

Makers Community

Together with a growing group of first phase partners, designers and craftsmen - we are now prototyping with the first panels. Our partners in this circular material journey are people from different places in the value chain. They simply started working as circular as possible because they know there has to be another way. Igor Soons (Entrepreneur, Eco Rebel), Pim Dekkers (Designer of Circular Products), Tim de Graaf (Commercial Director, Altis BV), all earned their spurs in the quest for circularity. You can watch their personal material journeys here:

Pim Dekkers

Tim de Graaf

Igor Soons

 

Erik de Knoop (Technical Application Specialist DSM-Niaga) and Alwin testing the first NEPs.

 

 

The material story

ECOR® Technology uses residual cellulose material flows from urban, industrial, forest or agricultural waste streams to make panels by means of heat, water and pressure. No additives, 100% recycled and 100 % recyclable bio-based and biodegradable beautiful celluloses. The Niaga® Technology finishes the panels by connecting layers and veneer in a reversible way by its polyester adhesive. To allow for decoupling of different materials, Niaga invented an adhesive that decouples on demand. When the NEP is no longer in use, a recycler can “unclick” the adhesive to harvest the two pure material streams.

 

Rebecca Luten (R&D Scientist ECOR) showing an ECOR lab sample.

For her personal material story, watch this video

The combination of the two Technologies offer panels that are:

1) Completely made from cellulosic fibers from e.g. old cardboard, barley from brewing beer, old cotton.

2) A healthier alternative to existing panels like MDF, particleboard, foam board or corrugated cardboard. No added formaldehyde (or substitutions for formaldehyde). No off-gassing.

3) Niaga® Technology’s reversible adhesive allows for easy maintenance (reparations or refurbishment) at the user’s location. 

4) NEPs are fully recyclable back into the same quality panels.

We have developed two types of panels:

NEP FullCOR: made from multiple layers of ECOR panels laminated with wood. Layers are coupled by Niaga® Adhesive.

 

NEP LightCOR: made from honeycomb sandwiched by two ECOR panels laminated with different kind of wood. The layers are coupled by Niaga® adhesive.

There is no alike product offered by the conventional industry. Niaga® ECOR® Panels are an alternative to MDF, particleboard, fiberboard and other panel material for sectors such as building & construction, furniture, interior decoration and displays.

 

The Material Journey - eliminating waste, adding life (user-) cycles to resources

The design principles behind NEPs are threefold:

1.     Use the lowest possible diversity of ingredients.

2.     Only use materials that have been tested for their impact on our health and the environment.

3.     Connect different materials only in ways it can be decoupled after use.

Following these principles, materials at the end of their product life are recovered to their original condition. In that way, waste is eliminated and the number of user cycles increase. A panel can be turned into a panel again and again and again...

Further updates on the prototyping are due this summer.  Be sure to check in and find out what the results are!