Children’s furniture is inseparable from the growth process of children, so it often has higher requirements in material selection. In recent years, the shortcomings of traditional furniture materials in terms of safety and sustainability have led to more attention to the application of environmentally friendly materials in children’s furniture design.
1 Analysis of the selected materials for children’s furniture
1.1 Analysis of commonly used materials for children’s furniture
According to this topic, the current children’s furniture market research and analysis of commonly used materials found: the existing children’s furniture materials mainly include wood, plastic, cloth, leather and so on. Among them, although the wood has a good texture, high structural strength, but the processing cost is high, and the processing process more adhesive; plastic as a common material for children’s furniture, its modeling freedom is high, easy to color and colorful, but in the production process of environmental pollution; and fabric materials are not dirty, leather is expensive, the production process of environmental pollution is more serious.
Through the above analysis can be found wood, plastic, leather and other common materials used in existing children’s furniture in more or less environmental problems, which makes the application of environmentally friendly materials in children’s furniture has received more and more attention.
1.2 Children’s furniture commonly used materials safety analysis
Most of the current market children’s furniture is wooden furniture, followed by soft packaging accessories, such as textile fabrics and leather, which contain harmful substances in these materials pose a great threat to the physiological safety of children. At present, there are three main components of harmful substances commonly found in children’s furniture materials, namely formaldehyde, heavy metals and volatile organic compounds.
Formaldehyde mainly comes from the common substrate of furniture – the use of adhesives in wood-based panels, followed by textile fabrics and leather used in upholstered furniture. Formaldehyde as the International Health Organization recognized carcinogenic substances, long-term living in an environment with high levels of formaldehyde may induce a series of diseases, and prolonged inhalation of formaldehyde can cause memory and intellectual decline and other hazards. Compared to adults, children’s immunity is lower, more likely to cause disease, so in the children’s furniture selection should pay extra attention to the environmental protection of materials.
In addition, because children are born prematurely in favor of colorful things, many children’s furniture will be painted or spray-painted processing, children’s furniture heavy metals are mainly present in the furniture paint often use colorants and color enhancers, heavy metal elements exceed the standard will cause greater damage to the respiratory system of children. Volatile organic compounds, which often appear in the furniture paint, followed by adhesives, can cause harm to several body systems, which is very detrimental to the growth of children.
1.3 Sustainability analysis of common materials used in children’s furniture
Children’s furniture made of wood and plastic is a potential threat to children’s safety and also has a negative impact on the ecological environment. Although many manufacturers are also studying about the recycling of children’s furniture, but many wooden and plastic discarded pieces are mostly incinerated and disposed of, serious pollution; while children’s furniture made of solid wood or panels are difficult to recycle because they contain too much glue and cannot be processed and used twice.
With the deterioration of the social and ecological environment, the sustainability of children’s furniture materials are also getting more and more attention from furniture companies.
2 Advantages of environmentally friendly children’s furniture materials
2.1 Environmentally friendly materials for the protection of the environment
Based on the current call for sustainable development in society, children’s furniture is also gradually reflecting the trend of green design. The shortage of natural resources makes the cost of raw materials increase, which is not conducive to the sustainable development of society, so designers began to consider some more sustainable and environmentally friendly materials, such as new composite materials. The development of new composite materials can already meet many processing processes, and they can be naturally degraded after being discarded, which alleviates the shortage of non-renewable resources and is in line with the concept of sustainable development.
In addition to some new composite materials, some ecological materials have gradually begun to enter the vision of children’s furniture designers and manufacturers, such as bamboo, rattan and other ecological materials used in children’s furniture can reduce the use of wood and slow down the consumption of forest resources.
2.2 Environmentally friendly materials for the protection of children
The choice of materials determines whether the product is environmentally friendly and comfortable, and the most important thing about furniture products that come into contact with children is the choice of materials. Therefore, children’s furniture should choose non-toxic and non-hazardous materials while trying to avoid the abuse of adhesives. Currently there are many environmentally friendly materials, bamboo, rattan, paper products and other materials are often used in the production of children’s furniture.
3 Children’s furniture in the common environmentally friendly materials and their applications
With the development of science and technology and design innovation, children’s furniture began to turn their attention to the choice of environmentally friendly materials. This paper selects several environmentally friendly materials commonly used in children’s furniture – wood-plastic composites, ecological materials and paper materials – and analyzes their characteristics and their practical applications in children’s furniture.
3.1 Wood-plastic composites
Wood-plastic composites are new composite materials made of wood fiber materials and thermoplastics as the main raw materials, processed by melt compounding extrusion or molding methods such as molding.
3.1.1 Characteristics of wood-plastic composites
(1) Comfortable and excellent texture: wood-plastic composites are mainly composed of wood fibers, so they have a texture similar to that of solid wood, and are more comfortable for children to use
(2) Excellent physical properties: it has the advantages of moisture-proof, anti-corrosion and insect-proof; at the same time, it contains plastic, which has good elasticity and is not easily deformed in the long-term use process;
(3) a wide range of raw materials: the main raw material of wood-plastic composites – wood fiber is extremely wide, low production costs, can still be reused after abandonment, which is extremely suitable for the elimination of the new children’s furniture faster;
(4) good processing performance: the processing performance of wood-plastic composites is similar to that of wood, and can be processed into a variety of shapes by cutting, pasting, reinforcing, etc. This is undoubtedly very beneficial for children’s furniture with a variety of shapes. In addition, its excellent coloring properties, by adding coloring agents, can be mixed with a variety of colors required for children’s furniture, but also laminated or composite surface , compared to traditional furniture materials painted may cause harm to children’s bodies, more safe.
3.1.2 Application of wood-plastic composites in children’s furniture
Wood-plastic composites are often used in accessories for children’s bathroom furniture, such as vanities, booster stools, etc., which can help children to better use adult bathroom furniture. At present, most of such children’s furniture in the market is made of plastic, which is difficult to guarantee the durability and quality to.
The wood-plastic composite material can be introduced into the board furniture 32mm system, can be designed to facilitate the adjustment of furniture size requirements according to the different growth periods of children’s furniture structure. This solves the problem of inappropriate furniture size due to children’s growth.
3.2 Ecological materials
In recent years, people have started to choose to use bamboo and rattan materials for the manufacturing and processing of children’s furniture. Since bamboo and rattan materials are utilized from the abundant bamboo and rattan resources in China, it reduces the consumption of wood resources.
3.2.1 Bamboo, rattan material characteristics
(1) safe and environmentally friendly: bamboo, rattan materials do not contain chemical substances, fast-growing, renewable, used in the manufacture and processing of children’s furniture in line with the principles of green design;
(2) tough and easy to shape: bamboo is strong in compression and bending resistance, safe and durable as a material for children’s furniture, while dried rattan is very tough and flexible, bending, modeling ability is greatly enhanced, for the rich shape of children’s furniture, is a very suitable choice.
3.2.2 Application of bamboo and rattan materials in children’s furniture
Due to the environmental protection and safety of the material itself, more and more bamboo and rattan materials are used in the design and production of children’s furniture, bamboo composite material is currently one of the common materials for children’s furniture. It is the original bamboo processing into certain specifications of the rectangular bamboo pieces, and then through the anti-mold, anti-moth treatment, drying, gluing and other processes to form a blank glued bamboo board square.
It retains the characteristics of bamboo, but at the same time has better resistance to bending, compression, and wear resistance is an excellent alternative to wood. In recent years, bamboo composite materials are mostly used in the manufacture and processing of children’s desks and chairs, children’s beds, etc., which not only save wood, but also guarantee the safety of children’s living rooms, and because bamboo has good heat absorption ability, it is suitable for children to use in hot environments.
3.3 Paper materials
With today’s society’s increasingly strict requirements for environmental protection, paper, an environmentally friendly material in the design and production of children’s furniture gradually play an important role.
3.3.1 Characteristics of paper materials
(1) paper fiber material is light, but the use of mechanical principles of clever design can have good strength and toughness, while light weight, more safety, very suitable for children to use
(2) paper material has good breathability, users make furniture to use the summer cool, warm in winter, with cushions more convenient;
(3) paper material is easy to color the characteristics of children’s paper furniture can have a rich selection of colors, very consistent with the physical and mental health needs of children.
3.3.2 Application of paper materials in children’s furniture
Paperboard furniture mainly refers to children’s furniture made of corrugated cardboard and honeycomb cardboard, which can be shaped by scratching, scoring, folding, pasting and other processes to meet the needs of children’s use. One of the most common is cardboard splicing combination furniture, such paper children’s furniture can be imitated according to children’s preferences for modular and educational design, which is not only environmentally safe, but also beneficial for children’s intellectual development and growth companionship.
3.4 Application of other environmentally friendly materials in children’s furniture based on new technologies
In addition to the application of environmentally friendly materials in children’s furniture design, many children’s furniture designers and manufacturers are beginning to focus on the use of new technologies to create more environmentally friendly materials for the design and production of children’s furniture. EcoBirdy, a Belgian toy brand, has developed an innovative material called ethylene by strictly recycling and separating recycled plastics, using this new plastic recycled material to produce colorful, lightweight and durable children’s furniture.
From the point of view of appearance, the shape and color is not inferior to children’s furniture made of traditional materials, while ensuring that the children’s furniture is green. Many children’s furniture companies are now considering new technologies to give new life to the material in order to reduce the damage to the ecological environment.
The choice of materials for children’s furniture involves many factors, but the environmental friendliness of the materials is one of the most important, and the choice of appropriate environmentally friendly materials in furniture design is important for the healthy growth of children and the protection of the social and ecological environment. Children’s furniture designers and manufacturers have gradually become more aware of the importance of environmentally friendly materials, but the application of environmentally friendly materials in the children’s furniture industry is still not widespread, and the development and use of environmentally friendly materials for children’s furniture is still a long way off.