Those 1.3 billion tons of food scraps and waste headed for the garbage each year aren’t trash. They might be tomorrow’s houses and office blocks.
Engineers at the University of Tokyo have vacuum-dried banana peels, cabbage leaves, orange peels, onions, pumpkins, seaweed, and other foods, then pulverized them using a technique that turns wood into powder.
The powder then was mixed with water and pressed into molds at high temperatures.
Some of the resulting materials proved to be stronger than concrete, but all were still edible and retained their original flavor.
Chinese Cabbage leaves proved to be three times stronger than concrete, pumpkin much weaker. But materials of different strengths can be mixed to make use of weaker ones.
Though still edible, the materials resisted mold, rot, and insects for a four-month test period.
TRENDPOST: Watershed Materials, which makes concrete building blocks, has been able to replace 30 percent of the cement in its cinder blocks with rice husk ash without compromising the material’s strength.
The company is based in California, the second-largest rice producing state in the U.S. At New Zealand’s University of Waikato, researchers have figured out how to turn blood meal from cows into a moldable, biodegradable plastic.
Leoxx in the Netherlands harvests fibers from bananas – the world’s most wasted food, ScienceNordic reported – to make carpets and soft textiles; Ananas Anam is a Philippine company producing its Piñatex fabric from pineapples.
Two British designers have turned potato scraps into a version of fiberboard or chipboard and Germany’s Wood K Plus is marketing a structural building panel that uses ground-up corn cobs as the material between the two finished surfaces.
The food we trash – which the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates to be one-third of all that’s produced – could be a resource capable of delivering products, and benefits, we are only beginning to imagine.
The report “The Urban Bioloop: Growing, Making, and Regeneration” from global engineering firm Arup outlines a new model of waste management that would turn garbage collection into a second harvest.
As the world runs short of finite resources and garbage piles up, municipal governments will take an interest in hosting tests by researchers and entrepreneurs to transform garbage into a new source of value.
Photo: University of Tokyo