Shelling out for seafood waste

Surfaces and materials are really what we’re about here. Sharing whats new, interesting, and innovative is one of the ways we broaden our definition of ’tile’, hoping to inspire artists, designers and manufacturers to incorporate fantastical materials and methods, or to develop their own.

We’ve covered many recycled materials such as Plasticiet’s recycled plastic terrazzo surfaces, homeware created out of used tea by Dust London, bricks made from loofah, and a whole host of other solutions made out of potato, cork, metal waste, and even a self-building brick. And now we’re sharing a material made from discarded lobster shells.

Although this is not a solution that will be endlessly sustainable (but is theoretically eternally recyclable), the aim to use something that is already wasted is still important. Producing a bioplastic that is biodegradable and recyclable is a very necessary innovation.

To act as a replacement for single use plastics, the material is created through a mixture of chitin and vinegar. The innovation came through the realisation that chitosan was too expensive to be a viable alternative, four designers from the Royal College of Art and Imperial College (Ed Jones, Insiya Jafferjee, Amir Afshar, and Andrew Edwards) created a sequence of machines to produce their own.

The five machines – Shelly, Sheety, Vaccy, Dippy and Drippy – each perform a role to extract the chitin from discarded lobster shells and turn it into a variety of products with unique properties. Throughout each step the designers were careful not to add elements and additives which would impact the recyclability of the bioplastic.

The final materials include food-safe carrier bags, plant-pots, blister packaging, and even fertiliser. Modern problems require solutions that are often already present in nature and each innovation such as this material from Shellworks is a step in the right direction.


A new post by Hanna Simpson, Diary of a Tile Addict, September 2020.

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