Vegetable: wood

The ubiquitous rigid, uPVC window frame (1 - 3) epitomises the way in which plastic has been used to great effect as a replacement for more traditional building materials. Wood has been the most popular choice for the construction of window frames and doors but the development of rigid uPVC as has allowed decaying timber constructions to be replaced with a material which can be fabricated to assist with heat loss reduction, is relatively low cost to produce and can be recycled at the end of its useful life. It can also be finished in a variety of ways to closely resemble the material it replaces.

In this example (4) the appearance of a carved wooden bowl has been recreated, and by exploiting the particular qualities of melamine practical and attractive tableware has been produced. Melamine is easily moulded to shape, scratch resistant, does not absorb liquids, does not taint and is easily coloured.


The practicality of a vinyl floor covering is enhanced by the printed floor board effect (5) by Forbo. A vinyl layer is bonded to a backing and then a decorative printed pattern layer is applied which is protected by a top clear wear layer of PVC. It provides a relatively continuous floor covering and requires little maintenance in comparison to natural floor boards. It can also be textured to improve feel and grip.

The functionality of a traditional wooden chopping board has been improved upon by this Joseph Joseph board (6). The polypropylene lessens knife blunting, is easily cleaned and in this case, transforms its shape by exploiting the living hinge, a particular capability of the material.


The jury is still out on the use of the plastic cork over the traditional natural version (7 - 13). The raw materials are extruded to form an inner core. A flexible outer skin is thermally bonded to the inner core which ensures a long-term, tight seal. The replication of the cellular structure of natural cork has resulted in an improved bottle stopper offering a consistent, predictable level of oxygen permeation and elimination of the risk of contamination, but as a result, groves of cultivated cork trees are now under threat as demand lessens.

The moulded panel (14) demonstrates the ease with which carved elements can be recreated for use in a wide variety of applications. Mass production of such pieces and the low cost of materials enables decorative effects to be incorporated with ease.