Central Saint Martins & UPM Biochemicals Lead The Way In Sustainable Snowboard Bindings

Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London and UPM Biochemicals have embarked on a ground-breaking design collaboration to demonstrate how industry can make the urgent shift away from manufacturing products with materials based on fossil fuels to renewable, circular materials.

Across art, design, and performance the students and staff of Central Saint Martins create ideas, materials and actions for a better future.  Among our alumni shaping the world through creative action are Campbell Addy, Miles Aldridge, Grace Wales Bonner, Jarvis Cocker, Isamaya Ffrench, Antony Gormley, Craig Green, Isaac Julien, Jean Jullien, Ib Kamara, Afroditi Krassa, Rene Matić, Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen, Morag Myerscough, Saul Nash, Simone Rocha, Zineb Sedira and Yinka Shonibare. Central Saint Martins is part of University of the Arts London (UAL)

A team of 50 product and industrial design students from Central Saint Martins have been tasked to reimagine a range of everyday products - typically produced from fossil-based materials. Embracing the trio of reduced material use, introduction of new, more sustainable materials and supporting recyclability, the concepts have been imagined using UPM’s bio-based materials produced from sustainably sourced hardwood. The results will enable the more environmentally-friendly manufacture of multiple products – from footwear, fashion and outdoor pursuits to furniture and personal transportation.

The aim is to demonstrate there are “no excuses” for industries not to shift their supply chains towards renewable circularity by consuming less, using renewable sources and ensuring that products can remain in the value chain after their useful life.

One of the leading designs is Boarderline sustainable snowboard bindings. These are a versatile and personally focused response to snowboarders' diverse and developing riding styles. Compatibility issues or poor design mean snowboard bindings often end up as waste, leaving a significant environmental footprint. Boarderline increases the performance capabilities and the longevity of snowboard bindings. The infill density, pattern and composition are all adaptable so riders can choose their bindings' flexibility. A modular and interchangeable component system makes the most of the unique material capabilities of sustainable plastic and a closed loop biological system means the products can constantly evolve, enhancing the user's experience.

UPM Biochemicals, who are supporting Central Saint Martins across the project, is at the forefront of developing innovative, sustainable and competitive wood-based biochemicals for replacing fossil-based raw materials.

UPM Biochemicals offers innovative, sustainable and competitive wood-based biochemicals for replacing fossil-based raw materials and improving the environmental performance in various applications. End-use segments for renewable glycols include textiles, PET bottles, packaging, coolants, composites, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and detergents. Lignin-based Renewable Functional Fillers (RFF) offer a sustainable alternative to carbon black and precipitated silica in a broad range of rubber and plastic applications. UPM is building an industrial scale biorefinery in Leuna, Germany to convert solid wood into next generation biochemicals. UPM Biochemicals is accelerating the transition to a circular bioeconomy – where renewable feedstocks, sustainable production and sustainable consumption are the new normal

“Ultimately societies all around the world will need to embrace a culture of sufficiency and innovate to decouple resource use and environmental impact,” said Martin Ledwon, Vice President Sustainability at UPM Biorefining. “Design will play a key role in accomplishing that by advancing new materials, reducing material use and enabling concepts such as modularity, repairability, reusability and recyclability.”

Approximately eight design concepts with the greatest potential will be taken forward to bring the idea of a fossil free future to life. The designs will be evaluated by a team of expert judges for their design quality, contribution to renewable circularity, commercial viability and their potential to disrupt conventional thinking in multiple industries.

“At the core of our programme lies our manifesto, which guides our approach to design and how it interacts with society,” said Nick Rhodes, Programme Director, Product Ceramic and Industrial Design, Central Saint Martins. “While we work with tangible objects, our primary focus is on the needs and connections between people and the world. Through materials, processes, and techniques, we strive to design for positive social impact. We are dedicated to nurturing creative ambition, fostering collaboration, and embracing making as a transformative practice that benefits individuals, enterprises, and the environment.”

A physical model of the bindings design will be displayed at Design Transforms '23 from 11 September to 15 October, an exhibition in conjunction with  the London Design Festival – and while this will not be full working prototype, it will still provide a tangible demonstration of the concept and its potential. UPM Biochemicals are also investigating how they can help connect the students of selected design concepts with potential brands or partners in order to facilitate a mentorship role going forwards.

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