Design Engineering
Showcase

Novistone

Students
Neel Le Penru, Christopher Turner, Alfie Thompson & Yat (Gordon) Cheung
Course
Design Engineering MEng
Supervisor
Prof. Chris Cheeseman
Theme
Rethinking Resources for a Finite Planet

Can sustainability be beautiful? Novistone, a team of four undergraduate Design Engineers, have collaborated with Imperial Civil Engineering researchers to refine a remarkable, sustainable and beautiful new material, and bring it to market. The material, ‘Plastcrete’, uses waste plastic alongside sand or other recycled materials to create a stone-like composite stronger than concrete. Plastcrete can be readily moulded, repaired, and hand-crafted to possess distinctive colours and unique patterns. Novistone aim to initially launch Plastcrete in the designer furniture market, and, pre-coronavirus, started developing partnerships with a luxury furniture manufacturer and leading stonemason. Visit novistone.co.uk to learn more.

Sytlish Sustainability

Novistone’s mission is to make sustainability stylish through considerate design and craft, materials science, and a holistic appreciation of the circular economy.

We are introducing a revolutionary new material, Plastcrete, to the luxury furniture market. Plastcrete is a stone-like composite made from waste plastic and sand or other recycled material. Based on research from Imperial College London’s Civil and Environmental Engineering department [1], Plastcrete has remarkable technical performance — with superior mechanical properties to concrete — and huge aesthetic possibility, while also offering a vital solution to two major environmental issues: plastic pollution and natural stone production.

 — Novistone
Samples of Plastcrete and its benefits.

Why Plastcrete?

By 2015, only 9% of all 6.3 billion metric tonnes of plastic waste ever produced had been recycled, with almost 80% going to landfill or the natural environment. [2] This needs to change, and it can if waste plastic is seen as a resource: the material value of annual plastic packaging waste is estimated around USD 100 billion [3]. Natural stone production also has severe environmental implications, from quarrying degrading ecosystems to intensive resource use and emissions in processing and shipping stone [4, 5, 6]. Plastcrete tackles these issues through its circular lifecycle, from local production with recycled materials and scope for customised appearances, to its ability to be repaired, remoulded and remanufactured at end of life.

 — Novistone
Plastcrete tackles the environmental degradation from plastic waste and stone quarrying.

Route to Market

We have consulted over 30 researchers, designers and industry experts to define Novistone’s business strategy. Luxury furniture presents a truly exciting opportunity as it can leverage Plastcrete’s aesthetic qualities to capture its full value, providing viable income for safe use-cases that we know from our own testing and R&D Plastcrete can withstand. Further, luxury furniture companies including ‘Cassina’, ‘Molteni & C | Dada’, ‘Lyon Beton’ and ‘Warrington & Rose’ revealed that the current growth in sustainable products — which is 5.6 times faster than ‘ordinary’ products in the US [7] — has been reflected in their businesses.

Novistone’s planned route-to-market is to primarily sell Plastcrete business-to-business to furniture fabricators, alongside some bespoke commissions. We have begun to form partnerships, including with ‘stoneCIRCLE’, the largest stonemason in the south of England. Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, Novistone were in talks with a company who had hoped to exhibit luxury furniture items made with Plastcrete at this year’s Grand Designs show. The team are now re-evaluating their plans to determine how best to advance the project within the ongoing uncertainty and restrictions, as well as longer-term in a post-COVID world where sustainability must be at the core of future rebuilding and recovery.

Overall, our research and development has shown Plastcrete can elevate waste plastic into a material that is sustainable, beautiful and valuable. It is time for luxury furniture to come out of the stone age.

Further validation from experts of Plastcrete’s advantages and potential

 — Novistone
Stool with Plastcrete top.

References

1. Kumi-Larbi A, Yunana D, Kamsouloum P, Webster M, Wilson DC, Cheeseman C. Recycling waste plastics in developing countries: Use of low-density polyethylene water sachets to form plastic bonded sand blocks. Waste Management. 2018 Oct; 80: 112–8.

2. Geyer R, Jambeck JR, Law KL. Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made. Science Advances. 2017 Jul 1; 3(7): e1700782. Available from: DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1700782.

3. Ellen MacArthur Foundation. The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the future of plastics & catalysing action. 2017. Available from: http://www.ellenmacarthurfound... [Accessed 21 March 2020].

4. Kalu IE, Ogbonna NJ. Investigation of environmental effect of stone quarrying activities on soil and water in Akpoha and Ishiagu communities of Ebonyi state, Nigeria. International Journal of Construction Management. 2019. DOI: 10.1080/15623599.2019.1604115

5. Hanieh AA, AbdElall S, Hasan A. Sustainable development of stone and marble sector in Palestine. Journal of Cleaner Production. 2014; 84: 581-588. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2013.10.045.

6. Capitano C, Peri G, Rizzo G et al. Toward a holistic environmental impact assessment of marble quarrying and processing: proposal of a novel easy-to-use IPAT-based method. Environ Monit Assess. 2017; 189(108). Available from: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10661-017-5825-6.

7. Kronthal-Sacco R, Whelan T. 2019 CSB Sustainable Market Share Index report [Internet]. New York: NYU Center for Sustainable Business; 2019. Available from:https://www.stern.nyu.edu/site... [Accessed: 8 December 2019].

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