Tyre Bench Project – Ireland
Why did we choose tyres?
We chose to focus our attention on bicycle tyres as they are a complex material and because of this, they are very difficult to recycle and can cause environmental pollution when disposed of incorrectly. Here at the Rediscovery Centre’s bicycle workshop, there is an endless amount of tyre waste and from here it is transported to Crossmore Tyre Recycling in County Cork where is it shredded and made into products such as equestrian rubber, tyre bales (used in flood control and road foundations) and tyre derived fuel. While this is a solution to bicycle tyre waste, we wanted to explore the design potential of this material and in the process create something that would raise awareness on this common type of waste.
There is an abundance of bicycle tyre waste around the world, especially in urban areas like large towns and cities. Dublin has seen considerable growth in bicycle use in the last 10 years, and figures are expected to keep growing. Below are two charts showing this increase:
Part of this increase in bicycle usage can be credited to initiatives such as the ‘Bike To Work’ scheme and ‘DublinBikes’, set up in order to increase the use of bicycles, reduce traffic congestion, improve air quality and promote a healthier, more eco-friendly method of daily transport.
The ‘Bike to Work’ scheme is a tax incentive scheme which aims to encourage employees to cycle to and from work. Under the scheme employers can pay for bicycles and bicycle equipment for their employees and the employee pays back through a salary sacrifice arrangement of up to 12 months. The employee is not liable for tax, PRSI, levies or the Universal Social Charge on their repayments making it an attractive option for people working in the city as they can make a saving of up to 5% of the retail price.
Why a bench?
We chose to design a public bench for a number of reasons: Many of us in the group had personal experiences of going to public parks are realising there was no place to sit down. Either there are no free benches to sit down on or none at all so for this reason we chose to focus on a park bench. Everyone gets tired and needs somewhere to sit down sometimes! We wanted to create a useful product that anyone of any age could use so there are no limitations in spreading awareness around tyre waste. We chose an outdoor bench instead of an indoor one so people had the chance to be outdoors more and enjoy the beauty of nature. This echoes one of the many reasons why people like to use bicycles!
The bench is designed to comfortably sit two people and is made from two main materials, plastic lumber for the frame and recycled bicycle tyres for the seat. Plastic lumber is a strong and hard-wearing material, commonly used in outdoor furniture and is perfect for our design and would further reinforce it as a sustainable and recycled product. Rubber tyres are durable and sturdy, making it suitable for use in our design. Its elastic properties make for a more comfortable seating experience as opposed to regular solid benches.
Apart from screws and staples, all the materials used in making the prototype were reused. We used timber salvaged from old discarded pallets, reused plywood from an old table and waste bicycle tyres from a bicycle repair shop. All materials for the build were sourced from the Rediscovery Centre in Ballymun, county Dublin. We designed the frame for Garreth to build and he showed us how to build it ourselves and helped with its construction. We did have ideas for using bike wheels as armrests but collectively decided to leave them out as they weren’t really necessary.
Initially we intended to use old rubber inner tubes in addition to bicycle tyres for our design, but following some further research into the material we found that when inner tubes are exposed to direct sunlight, the material actually begins to degrade…not at all suitable for an outdoor bench! Taking this into account we decided that in the case of damage, either through natural weathering or through vandalism, the design should allow for maintenance and repair. We added the ability to swap out tyres in case of damage which is a common issue for public furniture.
Instead of installing normal public benches constructed from conventional materials, why not utilise designs that are made from reused materials and hopefully inspire more people to think about recycling and the issues of waste.
This has been a really enjoyable experience for the team, we all agree that the best part of the project was seeing our design come to life and learning more about our creative potential when we work together as a team. Designing a product like this is not usually something that we would do and many of us were not aware of the design process or had ever heard of design thinking before Eco-Step. Coming up with concepts was fun and making something that was useful and you could actually sit on was really exciting!