Wood Products Design: the Free University of Bolzano commitment towards CSS1
May 2, 2024

Author: Vittoria  Benedetti

CSS1 is the circular systemic solution in the FRONTSH1P project dedicated to wood packaging waste valorization.

Wood is one of the most common materials used in industry for packaging mainly due to its versatility, strength, durability, reusability, antibacterial effects, no need of chemical treatments and theoretical low environmental impacts. Indeed, wood crates, boxes, drums, reels, cages and pallets are typically used to handle, store, load and transport not only fragile and heavy goods, like machines and plants, but also products coming from the food sector.

After prolonged use, wood packaging might show defects or damage that make it not repairable and reusable anymore and, once it becomes unsuitable for its original purposes, it is usually discarded and disposed of as a waste.

Since wood packaging residues still hold a great valorization potential, CSS1 aims at presenting two main strategies for its thorough exploitation. The first one foresees the transformation of wood waste (i.e., disused pellets) into objects and furniture, the second one involves the gasification of wood waste for the production of both renewable thermal energy and char to be used as pigment/filler in plastics (as substitute of fossil fuel-based carbon black).

As far as the first strategy is concerned, the Free University of Bolzano (UNIBZ) involved the students of the Professional Bachelor in Wood Technology, who, during the Product Design course taught by Prof. Simone Bellan, studied different circular solutions to valorise disused EPAL pallets into design products.

The design project called “NEO-LEGNO” (where legno means wood in Italian) lasted 13 weeks, involved 7 students and ended up with 5 projects. The objective was the production of “furnishings and accessories for small spaces, designed according to circular design principles, made with recycled wood from EPAL pallets: Functional, essential products, with attention to detail, durable, compact for shipping, easy to assemble, disassemble and repair”.

In particular, students investigated how pallets can be converted into toolboxes, partitions, shelves, stools, tables, through a circular approach. Each project featured a circular diagram outlining various options for repurposing the products once they reached the end of their life cycle.

The list of the projects, their authors, and a brief description are reported below:

  • MARY by Stefano Abrami, Luca Mora: Mary is a simple and functional toolbox. The structure of two volumes: the lower part is suitable for storing tools, while the upper one is intended for store consumables

  • SAKURA by Aurora Barbacetto, Valentina Marchesini: Sakura is a modular partition for small interior spaces, which is user configurable, with fixed and/or adjustable shielding. It can be customized thanks to three accessory panels including blackboard, magnetic plate, and mirror.
  • SESSANTAQUARANTA by Aaron Tonellotto: The project includes two shelves for small spaces. The holes allow the passage of cables for charging electronic devices. A red elastic band allows for hanging or insert objects, while a mirror in plastic material (previously waste of industrial production), creates a small microenvironment.

  • PALETABLE by Daniel Bellina: Paletable is a coffee table set. Designed in a minimalist way according to circular design principles, the set allows for composing the size of the coffee table according to the customer’s wishes.
  • STOOLLET by Martin Lukanovic: Essential in shape, STOOLLET is designed to be easily assembled by means of screws, with a single tool. Thanks to its wide seat, it can also be used as a side table.

NEO-LEGNO represents a notable example of how research activities and international projects can be seamlessly integrated with educational activities to provide students with an enriching learning experience.

We would like to acknowledge Würth Italia who provided the materials and allowed the students to free their creativity.