Angela with her display stand

Recycled trainers could be used to make furniture, student shows

Old trainers destined for landfill or the incinerator could be used to make furniture, a Nottingham Trent University student has shown.

Angelica Au, 21, collected 22 pairs of used trainers to help her make the prototype Okapi Stool, which she designed to help young children learn to put their shoes on.

The BA Furniture and Product Design undergraduate found that disused trainers with soles made from ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) when combined with polyurethane foam, was rigid and durable enough for seating.

“People go through shoes quite quickly, especially if they’re used for sports,”

said Angelica, from Hong Kong, who is studying in the School of Architecture, Design and the Built Environment.

“But the problem with trainers is that the fabric wears out before the sole, and not many people want to buy second hand shoes.

“Up to 40 different materials are used in a pair of shoes, which makes it hard for them to be recycled. So I wanted to show how this waste material could be repurposed and made much more sustainable.

“When combined with polyurethane foam, it makes for a durable and rigid material which isn’t too soft. I was pleased to hear that a lot of people say that it’s surprising comfortable to sit on.”

Named after the mammal found in the northeast Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Okapi Stool features an ash wood frame with a handle to help children maintain their balance while standing to put a shoe on.

Angelica collected the waste trainers from friends and from charity shops which had failed to resell them. She then cut the trainers into small cube-like shapes using machinery and by hand using a sheer. The foam seat – comprising the trainers and polyurethane – was set in a mould for 24 hours.

“I had feedback from parents about what makes it difficult to prepare for school,”

said Angelica.

“They say their children can change their shoes but it’s boring for them. So I wanted to make shoe changing fun and interesting, while also giving children more responsibility and independence.”

Angelica’s design is set to go on public display at New Designers in London from 6 July, a national student design competition which sees undergraduates compete against other UK universities.

Chris Lamerton, principal lecturer in Furniture and Product Design at Nottingham Trent University, said:

“Angelica has demonstrated how it’s possible to make new products out of throwaway materials which otherwise would be destined for landfill or incineration.

“The Okapi Stool helps children develop more independence and makes life easier for parents who can often face challenges trying to leave their own home with young children.”

Posted on 01 July 2022

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Jack Woolley