A biobased and biodegradable material made from pine needles

Designer Gaurav Wali developed a biobased and biodegradable material made of pine needles, which can be used to make products.

Himachal and Uttarakhand, areas in the northern region of India, are home to pine tree forests, covering about 40,000 square kilometres (15,500 square miles). However, the dry needles on the forest floor help spread forest fires and other environmental issues. Over 500 forest fires are reported in Himachal each season, causing extreme damage to plant, animal, and human life, as well as to the environment.

Wali’s Cheer Project aims to remove pine needles, a normally unwanted material, and turn it into a mouldable material, killing two birds with one stone. On the one hand, less pine needles mean that forest fires spread less easily, and on the other, the project provides a sustainable alternative to oil-based plastic.

Through shedding, the fibres of the needles are separated, and are in turn mixed with natural binders and waxes. The fibres can be dyed with natural dyes made from local vegetables and spices. The resulting composite material is 100 per cent biobased, biodegradable, recyclable, fire retardant, water repellent and leaves no waste behind.

“The entire process of production was designed to be practised as a sustainable craft to help generate income in the rural areas of Himachal,” Wali says. “It has been an experiment to understand the root of a local material and its potential and possibilities in an ever-increasing demand for alternatives for the production of sustainable objects. The ultimate concept rested on the fusion of local craftsmanship and sustainable utilization of a naturally abundant novel material; the rediscovery of the pine needle.”

Wali used the material to make a variety of objects, such as bowls, coasters and plates.

Photos: Gaurav Wali