Although we have previously heard about integrating plant waste into bioplastic, the process typically involves carting that waste off to a factory somewhere, away from public eyes. That isn’t the case, however, with a new juice kiosk that recycles its own orange peels on location.
Known as “Feel the Peel,” the experimental installation was created by Italian design firm Carlo Ratti Associati (CRA), in partnership with global energy company Eni. It’s basically a 3.1-meter-tall (10.2-ft) motorized orange-juicer, topped by a dome containing 1,500 oranges.
When a customer orders a cup of orange juice, oranges tumble down from that dome, along a circular track. Those oranges are then automatically each cut in and half and squeezed, obtaining the juice. Their peels, meanwhile, fall down into a bottom storage compartment.
Once enough of those peels have accumulated, built-in machinery dries them, mills them into a powder, then mixes that material with powdered Polylactic Acid (PLA) bioplastic. The lactic acid used in PLA can itself be harvested from renewable resources such as corn starch, tapioca and sugarcane.
After the resulting mixture is heated and melted, it’s extruded in filament-form by an integrated 3D printer, creating the cups in which the juice is served. Customers deposit those cups for recycling, after use.
Feel the Peel will be demonstrated to the public in various locations across Italy over the next few months.
“The principle of circularity is a must for today’s objects,” says CRA founding partner Carlo Ratti. “Working with Eni, we tried to show circularity in a very tangible way, by developing a machine that helps us to understand how oranges can be used well beyond their juice. The next iterations of Feel the Peel might include new functions, such as printing fabric for clothing from orange peels.”