Award winning designs expand the potential application of bioplastics

22 October 2008

The potential introduction of new biomaterials into New Zealand homes has been given a helping hand by design students from Unitec New Zealand.

Students at Unitec’s School of Design recently took up a challenge, outlined by Crown Research Institute Scion and the Designers Institute of New Zealand, of creating stylish, functional products using bioplastics derived from sustainable resources.

On Friday October 10, two students received awards for their designs, in the 2008 BeST Design Awards, student category.

Gareth Joe won a silver award for his Light Lamp design and Andy Chang, a bronze award for his Bio-Planter.

Scion business development manager, Jeremy Warnes, says Scion was keen to get involved in a project as it focussed on the practical application of complex science.

“Everyone learns something new from this type of collaboration. We get to see how others turn our concepts into practical reality, and the students get the chance to understand the science behind the materials they are working with.

“Scion already works with plastics companies and designers to develop novel bioplastic materials for specific needs but working alongside students with such a creative focus was a new experience for us.”

Jeremy says it was Scion’s role to outline the challenge and then work alongside the students and their tutors to enhance their bioproduct ideas and encourage new ways of green thinking.

“The final product needed to be made from sustainably-derived materials, preferably of a thermoplastic nature, so ultimately it could be created through injection moulding, which is how many common plastics are produced.

“With the market penetration of bioplastics across the globe expected to grow from less than 100,000 tonnes in 2002 to more than one million tonnes by 2012, we can expect to see more and more products made from bioplastics appearing in New Zealand homes.”

Roger Bateman, Associate Head of the School of Design and senior lecturer in product design says he is very pleased with the way the projects, and the relationship between Scion and Unitec, evolved.

“We see great possibilities for future development of some of the students’ projects.

“The Unitec Bachelor of Product Design has a strong sustainability focus. We believe that in a world overloaded with products, designers must be encouraged to challenge the status quo rather than resort to ‘tweaking’ or producing variations of existing product types.

“Throughout the programme we expect our students to challenge existing typologies and address ecological and ethical issues through their design projects.

“The students find it both vital and liberating to work on design problems with real people, companies and communities. We are delighted to be associated with Scion and commend them on the way they have engaged with the programme, the students and their projects.”

The BeST Design Awards are a national programme of the Designers Institute of New Zealand, recognising New Zealand's best graphic, product and spatial design.

For more information on the awards, visit