In Review–Banana Lab, by Lizzie Hall
Banana Lab is a project by designer Lizzie Hall that generates a biomaterial from banana peels and exhibits a range of biodegradable banana-based products. Beyond the making of the biomaterial itself, the project suggests a new recycling process–“Collect, Create, Compost”–that paves the way for making innovative and sustainable products.
While many designers are creating biodegradable materials today, and innovation with vegetable or plant-based material is particularly being pursued, the work of fresh-graduate Lizzie Hall is notable and valuable to the design community.
Her process of converting banana-peels into a smooth, flexible and robust biomaterial is simple and replicable. And part of the 'products' of this project, in addition to several physical formats and functions taken on by the biomaterial, is a manual that documents the making process and allows others to set up similar 'Banana Labs' in their homes, using easily-available materials.
Here is what we love about this project, and about the resulting biomaterial itself:
1) Multiple forms / Multiple functions:
Lizzie is able to use the banana-peel based biomaterial as a smooth, stretchable alternative to leather or textile. The material responds well to joinery–stitching, pins, and rivets–resulting in the easily-created 'Banana-bags' and satchels from this project, seen above..
Equally, if not more valuable is the material's ability to serve as a biodegradable alternative to plastic. The strong material can be used for molding, casting, and stretch-forming objects such as bowls, vessels or cutlery as seen here–the best part of which is their easy return to the earth.
Finally, every new material we generate today is eventually tested for its ability to work with digital crafting and technology. The banana-peel based biomaterial passes that test well and can be extruded by a 3D printed to create long-lasting 'Banana-plastic' forms as seen below.
2) Circular design made scalable:
While it goes without saying that Lizzie's project adopts a circular attitude to waste, and the making of new sustainable products; what is most exciting is how it brings circular design straight to the source, and into the home.
Being able to set-up a simple 'Banana Lab' in their homes, or studios, allows people to have an immediate and real understanding what it means to design and make in circular ways, actively contributing to a more circular economy.
3)Tactility and Material Health:
Created from Banana peels, and supermarket-bought materials, the biomaterial produced here is innately free of harmful chemicals and is easy to declare as being a 'Healthy material.'
Add to that its leathery-smooth, or grainy textures, depending on its casting, and one has a texturally-pleasing and healthy material at hand.
4) Replicability and ease of manufacture:
While scaling this project up and creating large numbers of the products may eventually demand other techniques and ingredients, but it currently employs the simplest of materials and methods and is easily replicable for other makers and users.
A material that can accept coloring (mostly darker colors at the moment), is easily laser-cut and laser-engraved allows for the creation of varied, clean-lined products, with unique messaging or customization. These are all possible with the biomaterial created in Banana Lab.