A competition of ideas in which participants realised projects from waste materials from agro-food chains

The approach to design culture by the new generations of architects and designers is no longer "linear" (a model in which consumption determines the product cycle, generating an economic chain that responds to the extraction-production-consumption-disposal scheme) but "circular" (a model that implies sharing, reusing, repairing and re-conditioning existing materials and products to extend their life cycle and minimise waste) and sees a flourishing of ideas and products made with secondary raw materials obtained by recycling other materials or from industrial and food waste. These include tomato peels, aluminium cans, coffee residues. All to be thrown away? Possible, by sorting. Or not, by recycling and recovering agro-food waste that becomes lamps, toys, table mats, fast food containers or birdhouses. This was the aim of the Re-Food competition (2021 edition), a competition for designers capable of reinventing design.

Design and agri-food technologies

Promoting the ideas contest were the Departments of Agriculture and Architecture of the University of Naples Federico II, in collaboration with ADI (Association for Industrial Design). "In this experience, we wanted to give space to creativity by inventing a contest of ideas with design as the denominator, in which participants created projects from waste material from agrifood processing. Cultural contaminations such as that between design and agri-food technologies to create products that can be useful for implementing circular economy processes are therefore welcome. It will be important, in the future, to have food production in which waste represents a value because, perhaps, it can be used as a source of bio-energy, or, as in our case, as a raw material to produce a design object. It is an interesting sign that so many young people have responded to the competition, evidence of the attention of young designers and planners to sustainability issues," explains Professor Danilo Ercolini, Director of the Department of Agriculture and creator of the initiative.

An unprecedented and innovative competition

The competition, reserved for junior designers under 35 and seniors, was a success and there were numerous participants, with the junior category being the most active. Thirty-eight projects were evaluated, submitted by designers from all over Italy. Among the materials used: tomato peels, citrus fruit, pineapple, corn leaves mixed with biopolymers and resins, but also wood scraps, bivalve shells, aluminium cans, jute, pasta and biscuits. Lamps, children's toys, table mats, fast-food containers, but also armchairs, birdhouses and tiles among the objects made.

Technology, expressive language and user experience

Re-Food aimed to stimulate the creative rethinking of waste materials through the design and realisation of everyday objects and object systems. In particular, the competition valorised the use of waste materials from agrifood supply chains through an engagement activity aimed at students, designers and companies producing the waste or involved in the conversion processes of waste materials from agrifood supply chains. From the design point of view, the products had to mix the technological and production dimensions, expressive languages and the user experience in all its aspects (perceptive, sensorial, material, use). The objects were evaluated on the basis of: innovation, originality, ease of assembly if modular, integrability of the materials used, and sustainability of the product life cycle. Participants were offered the opportunity to exhibit their works in a temporary exhibition set up by the Departments of Agriculture and Architecture at the Reggia di Portici open until 15 May.

The winning projects

The first prize was awarded in the junior category to Lorenzo Esposito's Maciste project, a design project, a container, made from dried fruit shells or eggshells or mussel shells. Second prize ex aequo junior category to Beatrice Borellini, Laura Verri (with their tiles made from the shells of mussels and various bivalves) and to Giulia Cosentino (with her bioplastic birdhouse made from organic components: starch, alcohol vinegar, seeds and pine resin that does not run out of life after use, turning into local plants). Second prize ex aequo senior category to Edoardo Perri and Dario Riva (coffee cups and saucers made with coffee waste) and to Gaetano Avitabile (pod lamp made with plastic material from the food chain, plastic caps from coca cola bottles and expanded polystyrene from buffalo mozzarella transport packaging).


Special mentions in the junior category to Francesca Nori and Fabrizio Moiani (surface covering panels made from pineapple peels), to Nicola Boselli (seat and small table covered with materials made from mango and orange juice waste), to Luisa Carnevale Baraglia (among the designers of the installation realised by Milano Makers in the underpass of the University of Milan during the Interni Design Re-Generation exhibition-event: she exhibited the new Serenissima collection of glasses made with Murano glass from production waste from the Gambero&Tagliapietra furnace), Yuki Hadal, Siyuan Wang (placemats made with waste from oranges, chestnuts, courgettes, artichokes, lemons).

Opening, Gaetano Avitabile, Podlamp, second prize ex aequo.