recycling

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Design

A Nairobi Entrepreneur Is Recycling Plastic Waste into Bricks That Are More Durable Than Concrete

February 9, 2021

Grace Ebert

Collectively, we use a staggering amount of single-use plastic each year—we buy one million plastic bottles each minute around the world—most of which ends up in landfills, oceans, and other natural spaces. Nzambi Matee, a 29-year-old entrepreneur from Nairobi, is combatting this global crisis by recycling bags, containers, and other waste products into bricks used for patios and other construction projects.

Prior to launching her company, Gjenge Makers, Matee worked as a data analyst and oil-industry engineer. After encountering plastic waste along Nairobi’s streets, she decided to quit her job and created a small lab in her mother’s backyard, testing sand and plastic combinations. Matee eventually received a scholarship to study in the materials lab at the University of Colorado Boulder, where she ultimately developed a prototype for the machine that now produces the textured bricks.

Made from a combination of plastic and sand, the pavers have a melting point higher than 350°C and are more durable than their concrete counterparts. Matee and her team source much of the raw product from factories and recyclers, and sometimes it’s free, which allows the company to reduce the price point on the product and make it affordable for schools and homeowners. So far, Gjenge Makers has recycled more than 20 tons of plastic and created 112 job opportunities in the community.

“It is absurd that we still have this problem of providing decent shelter–a basic human need,” Matee said in a statement. “Plastic is a material that is misused and misunderstood. The potential is enormous, but its afterlife can be disastrous.”

Right now, the company generates between 1,000 and 1,500 bricks per day,  and Matee hopes to expand across Africa. You can see more of Gjenge Makers’ production and finished projects on Instagram. (via designboom)

 

Nzambi Matee. All images via Gjenge Makers

 

 

 



Art

Recycled Scraps and Discarded Objects Are Fashioned Into an Eccentric Menagerie of Metal Animals

October 27, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © Barbara Franc, shared with permisison

London-based artist Barbara Franc (previously) upcycles materials that otherwise would be tossed into the recycling bin to create a quirky menagerie of metal creatures. Composed with scraps and copper wire, the lively sculptures generally are indicative of movement: owls lift a talon mid-waddle, two cats peer over their shoulders with surprised expressions, and a squirrel appears ready to scurry off.

The diversity of Franc’s creatures mimic the breadth of materials utilized. She often begins by creating a wire-netting form before attaching the found objects—which include a combination of windscreen wipers, dog leads, keys, cupboard handles, cutlery, biscuit tins, old spanners, metal clips, costume jewelry, and clock and watch pieces—that she sources from yard sales, thrift shops, builder’s dumpsters, and along the roadside as she walks. When attached to the body, logo-printed scraps form a bushy tail and chess pieces create ruffled chest feathers.

Franc notes that she creates to celebrate other species rather than out of sentimentality. “It is more about a very positive feeling of respect for the huge diversity of life on our wonderful planet and the knowledge that Life itself will always be there. Animals just symbolize that for me in an uncomplicated and direct approach as there is no human element to confuse the issue,” she says.

Purchase one of Franc’s animalistic sculptures from her shop, and follow her latest recycled pieces on Instagram.

 

 

 



Design

Unused Microchips, Motherboards, and Other Electronic Waste Make This Upcycled Watch Tick

August 7, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © Vollebak

Recent reports estimate that the world produced 53.6 million metric tons of electronic waste last year alone, a record high that’s expected only to rise. In an effort to prevent digging up precious materials like gold, silver, and aluminum just to return them to the ground later on as trash, the sustainable fashion brand Vollebak has introduced Garbage Watch.

As its name suggests, the upcycled timepiece is constructed with old motherboards, microchips, and computer parts, utilizing bright electrical cords as the strap with an open face and exposed mechanisms. “We’ve taken an ‘inside-out’ design approach with the Garbage Watch, making the functional inner workings highly visible,” said Vollebak co-founder Nick Tidball in a statement to Inhabitat. “Our aim was to reframe an often invisible and hazardous end of the supply chain, and make people think deeply about the impact of treating their wearables in a disposable manner.”

An undertaking in partnership with the Wallpaper* Re-Made project, the timepiece officially launches in 2021, although a waitlist is currently open. Until then, find more of Vollebak’s sustainable designs on Instagram.

 

 

 



Art

Stumble Upon Seven New Reclaimed Wood Trolls by Thomas Dambo in the Forests of Boom, Belgium

July 9, 2019

Kate Sierzputowski

© Yannig Van de Wouwer

In anticipation of Tomorrowland’s 15th anniversary, the Belgium-based festival commissioned Danish artist Thomas Dambo (previously) to build seven of his world-renowned trolls throughout the De Schoore area in Boom. Like his previous installations in Copenhagen, South Korea, and northern Illinois, the new cast of creatures are built from recycled and reclaimed wood from pallets, buildings, and fallen trees. Carved wood forms geometric noses and human-sized feet, while scraggly tree branches create untamed hair and beards.

“Trash is a material and it only depends on how you work with it,” Dambo explained in a press release about the project. “We can design an entire world out of trash. We need to look at it and then think about what to do with it. That’s why I’m building these bigger-than-life scale projects. By doing that and involving people, they will open their eyes and see the possibilities and opportunities that lay in our trash. I hope that my art will inspire people to recycle and encourage them to be kind to nature and our planet.”

Although the trolls were built for the festival, visitors to the De Schoore recreational area can also happen upon the 13 to 60-foot-tall sculptures, in addition to an observation tower built from found branches. Follow along with Dambo’s friendly beasts on his website and Facebook.

© Yannig Van de Wouwer

© Yannig Van de Wouwer

© Yannig Van de Wouwer

 

 



Design

A Cherry Blossom-Inspired Torch Will Kick Off the Tokyo 2020 Olympics

March 21, 2019

Kate Sierzputowski

Yesterday, on the first day of spring, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics torch was revealed to the public at a press conference in the hosting city. The floral design is inspired by Japan’s cherry blossom, a flower celebrated in festivals across the country each March. Conceptualized by Tokujin Yoshioka, the torch features five petal-shaped cylinders that will each contain a flame, and is constructed from aluminum waste from temporary housing built after the Great East Japan Earthquake.

The materials and blossom concept are meant to reinforce the upcoming Olympic Torch Relay concept, “Hope lights our way,” delivering a message of support and unification as the torch is carried to the New National Stadium for the opening ceremonies. The official relay will be held for 121 days, beginning March 26, 2020, and be passed to 80-90 runners each day. Relay ambassadors for next year’s event include three-time judo Olympic gold medallist Tadahiro Nomura, three-time Paralympian Aki Taguchi, and actress Satomi Ishihara. You can see a 360-degree view of the cherry blossom design in the video below. (via Spoon & Tamago)

 

 



Design Science

Upcycled Lobster Shells are Transformed into Functional Planters and Packages

February 22, 2019

Laura Staugaitis

Four designers from the Royal College of Art and Imperial College have found a second life for the lobster tail you might’ve splurged on for Valentine’s Day. The project team, dubbed Shellworks, created a bioplastic by combining vinegar with chitin, a fibrous substance that is the main component of crustacean’s shells, as well as fungi cell walls. Though there is currently a commercially available version of chitin, called chitosan, it is extremely expensive.

The Shellworks team created five of their own machines, named Shelly, Sheety, Vaccy, Dippy and Drippy, to manipulate the chitin-based materials with varying stiffness, flexibility, thickness, and translucence. The resulting range of potential products includes self-fertilizing planters, pill blister packs, and food containers, which can be recycled or composted. By making this process more accessible and affordable, Shellworks hopes that their innovations might allow for larger-scale replacement of the plastic we use every day. You can learn more about the project in the video below, and on the Shellworks website and Instagram. (via dezeen)

A range of material properties that can be created from chitin without any additives