Ex-principal makes waste palatable

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Retired former primary school principal Peter Alford has turned his hand to sustainable furniture creation with a difference.
Camera IconRetired former primary school principal Peter Alford has turned his hand to sustainable furniture creation with a difference. Credit: Supplied

Retired school principal Peter Alford has turned his eye to the native environment, saying he prefers to take action rather than get involved in protests.

Mr Alford said retirement after more than 40 years in education had let him focus on a practical way to help the planet, while also keeping him busy.

“I do believe in reducing our carbon footprint and in the use of a wasted resource,” he said.

“I retired, moved to Cowaramup, and saw the continued waste of pallet timber.

“Burnt in winter, or left to rot in factory yards, this becomes fodder for white ants.”

Waste and health concerns from the burning of old forklift pallets — which are sometimes treated with methyl bromide — triggered the project of turning some of these old, disused pallets into stylish furnishings.

“Fifty-four million pallets are used in Australia a year, with a significant number being only single use,” he said. “At 66 I decided that I needed to do something about the issue.

“Standing in demonstrations or tying myself to a tree is not my thing,” Mr Alford said. “Rather than continue to sit on my bum and whinge about the state of the world, I decided to find a creative use for pallet wood.”

Mr Alford told the Times he had invested a “substantial portion” of his superannuation into the project, which involved importing two computer-controlled routers from China. “All the programs were completely foreign to me but I slugged away for a year learning them,” he said. “Machine manuals were written in Mandarin, translated through Google to English.”

“How to turn the machine on was found on page 320 – thus taking me a week before a finger hit a switch.”

Although pallet timber is often low grade, Mr Alford found fresh uses for the wood as well as upcycling other timber pieces for further use.

Mr Alford said he welcomed donations of timber and wooden tables and benches for repair.

“My aim is to create a sustainable business in order to support sustainability,” he said.

To see more of his work and to get in touch, visit deepe-design.com.au.

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