From food trash to future cities…

Remember when you were a child and you used to pick up shells on the beach to take home and display in your bedroom? Perhaps you also made things from them, mosaic plates, lamps from large urchin shells etc…

Working as a professor in the l’Ecole de Design Masters in Food Design Lab, we are seeing more and more interesting uses for this type of food trash coming from restaurants, markets, etc…

Some of our students have developed some interesting projects around waste of this nature. From mussel and oyster shells for example into Terrazzo for the kitchen.

Morgan Guyader, one of our alumni students has now built his business around this practice of upcycling shells from different shellfish – mussels, oysters… You can read more here (in French) about his work...

Morgan Guyader of Malàkio in his studio making products from upcycled shells. Image courtesy of

Morgan was recently back in school to give a workshop to our Product Design students on the process of making things from this mussel shells – they made a strong terrazzo material.

Then, I came across this article the other day from Treehugger about the future of building materials using food waste. The engineering firm Arup has recently published a report on the circular systems which can be created around food waste and the future built environment.

About half of all the food produced in the world ends up in the trash, accounting for about 60 million tons of food.

Applying circular thinking to this issue in conjunction with construction waste could mean pouring less produce into landfills while simultaneously making building materials that are recyclable to keep construction waste out of dumps. Meanwhile, some materials could be grown like crops, eliminating excess waste entirely. In their report The Urban Bio Loop, the engineering firm sees our future buildings made from pineapples, potatoes, mushrooms, corn, oranges, bananas and more.

Arup are calling this the Urban Bio Loop.

They are suggesting moving from a linear model of growing and eating food to a circular model. You can find these models in their report in the article above.

In 2017, MIT students developed a concrete that is made with recycled plastic bottles. Best of all, it is 20 percent more durable than the conventional product.

“There is a huge amount of plastic that is landfilled every year. Our technology takes plastic out of the landfill, locks it up in concrete, and also uses less cement to make the concrete, which makes fewer carbon dioxide emissions. This has the potential to pull plastic landfill waste out of the landfill and into buildings, where it could actually help to make them stronger.”

Another interesting project around building materials made from waste has been developed by Carolina Härdh who has created a form of concrete to enable her to make a stool and other elements for Vrå, a Nordic-Japanese restaurant located in Göteborg, from its own food waste. By combining rice starch, fish bones, and oyster shells from the kitchen, Vrå shows its guests the unexpected value of food waste.

Carolina Härdh has created a food waste stool for Vrå

And it’s not just about shells but any kind of waste. Ohmie is made from waste orange peels… find out about it here

So the next time you throw out old or wasted food, think about what it could become… Food Designers, Interior Designers, Architects and Engineers already are!

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