NTU student shows how recycled trainers could be used to make furniture

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 student found that disused trainers with soles made from ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) when combined with polyurethane foam, were rigid and durable enough for seating.

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

“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.

“I was pleased to hear that a lot of people say that the stool is surprisingly comfortable to sit on.”

Chopped up trainers ready to become furniture (Credits: Nottingham Trent University)

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, originally from Hong Kong, 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.

Angelica added: “I had feedback from parents about what makes it difficult to prepare for school.

“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 was on public display at New Designers in London in July, a national student design competition which sees undergraduates compete against the best of all UK universities.

Chris Lamerton, principal lecturer in Furniture and Product Design at NTU, 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.”

Lead image: Nottingham Trent University

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