Make it yourself!

A bowl made from fruit

How organic rubbish is turned into tableware in Bangkok. 

Two melon bowls turned upside down with lids.

Dried and inverted, these melon rinds become storage containers for snacks or sweets

I am a lecturer in sustainable design at Kasetsart University in Bangkok. In my designs, I incorporate a lot of what others only see as worthless waste. I want to show students how to combine environmental protection with design to find solutions to the problems of our time. In general, I have the impression that everyone in Bangkok says that the environment is important to them. But many people still do not yet understand how they contribute to the destruction of the environment through their consumer behaviour. When they go to the café, they reach for the plastic straw or the disposable coffee cup. It is very difficult to change this typical urban mentality. That's why I think it's so important that we pursue new ways of thinking, especially at universities, and show people how things can be done differently.

Some time ago, I did a research project with students that we called the Scrapify Project: In it, I challenged students to make utilitarian objects out of waste. In my course we focused on food waste because there is so much waste at our university. In Thailand, we grow an incredible variety of fruit. Often the edible parts of the fruit are used to make beautiful arrangements. But the peels usually just end up in the rubbish. I came up with the idea to play around with them in class and see what you can make out of fruit peels. This is how the design of the “Biodegradable Tableware” came about, which I would like to present here: We dried the fruit peels and turned them inside out so that the natural resistant outer layer can be used as a waterproof container.

“For these biodegradable vessels, all you need is a knife, a spoon, imagination and creativity.”

Not only does the result look very original, it can also be used for four to five years without any problems if you follow a few simple instructions for use: The containers are best suited as snack bowls for dry things like sweets, dried fruit or nuts. But you can also drink water or soup from them. But afterwards you have to let the jar dry carefully before you reuse it - otherwise it can get mouldy. Many of the students experimented further, for example rubbing beeswax into the jars to make them last even longer. Particularly creative ones also made small handles or styles like those on a wine glass out of leftover wood and attached them to the bowls. The only slightly more complicated step in making them is turning them inside out. After all, the upturned fruit bowl is not supposed to turn back automatically. But if you fill the bowl with a bit of wire, newspaper or something similar while it dries, this step also works well. 

I always say: anyone can be a designer. That's the beauty of it - when you have a fruit in your hand, it's up to you what you make of it. You just have to play with it, be creative with the shape, be able to imagine it in other forms. And: you can get fruit anywhere in the world. You only need a type of fruit with a reasonably resistant skin, then you can experiment with it. Especially in times of quarantine during the Corona pandemic, this was a very entertaining activity for me. Many of my students live in dormitories and don't have access to a kitchen. But for these biodegradable vessels, all you need is a knife, a spoon, imagination and creativity.

As told to Gundula Haage

The illustrated instructions for these fruit bowls can be found in the print edition of the booklet. ORDER HERE