Off the wall: Autumn 2017

A roundup of some of of the more unusual stories from the world of waste and resources...

What a rotter

Foodies and gardeners alike will rejoice at Loughborough University graduate Benjamin Cullis Watson’s new invention: a smell-free rubbish bin that ‘quickly’ converts food waste into compost, as well as liquid fertiliser for household plants. Named the ‘Taihi bin’, it relies on bokashi – a Japanese method that uses fermentation to decompose rubbish. The bin automatically sprays an accelerator mixture onto the waste to start the process, which takes around two weeks.Off the wall: Autumn 2017

A double-lid system and set of rubber seals prevents smell, and the bin is covered in a non-stick coating to aid emptying and cleaning. Unlike many composting systems, the waste doesn't need to be turned and doesn't rely on specific conditions or combinations of waste. Cullis Watson claims that he gave the bin a purposefully "clear and minimal" look, to emphasise the method's cleanliness and simplicity, and to link it to modern Japanese design.

A hair-raising idea

Ever wistfully sat in the chair, watching your locks fall past your face and accumulate on the floor? Ever thought that there must be some kind of other use for all of that lovely, shiny, excess hair?

Well it turns out, there is. Green Circle salons, a Canadian sustainability group, collects human hair from salons across the US and uses it to stuff booms for the purpose of oil spill clean up.

Human hair, it transpires, has the same adsorbent properties as an animal’s fur or feathers, and proves extraordinarily effective at removing oil from water. After collection, Green Circle sends the hair to a warehouse in Chicago where it is dried and then stored in boxes, ready to donate should an oil spill occur. The organisation hopes that in future hair booms will become more widely accepted, as they are said to be much more effective than synthetic booms. 


Off the wall: Autumn 2017All tee, no tree

Printing company MOO is bringing back a retro way of making
paper whilst reducing waste from the fashion industry – by making business cards from scrap cotton. In the past paper was often made from leftover fabric, but as wood pulp became cheaper and more accessible, this traditional way of papermaking fell by the wayside. In an effort to revive this more eco-friendly method of production, MOO has launched ‘Cotton’, a range of unusual cards made entirely from T-shirt offcuts.

To come up with a material that worked, and was affordable enough, MOO worked with Mohawk Fine Papers, a family owned paper mill in the US, which sources 100 per cent of its electricity from renewable wind power and aspires to be carbon neutral. The method creates textured, smooth yet tough paper that takes any kind of ink. And because only white T-shirt fabric is used, the card is naturally white and doesn’t require further bleaching.

Whisked away

If you thought Scots were mad about whisky, you’d be right – they’ve even started fuelling their cars with it. Edinburgh-based Celtic Renewables has come up with an ingenious biofuel made from

the waste produced by the single malt industry.
 The fuel, biobutanol, is produced from draff – the kernels of barley that are soaked in water to facilitate the fermentation process necessary for whisky production – and pot ale, the yeasty liquid that is left over following distillation.

According to the company, each year the Scottish whisky industry produces almost 750,000 tonnes of draff and two billion litres of pot ale, which it plans to put to good use by converting them into millions of litres of advanced biofuel. The company recently received £9 million in funding support from the Scottish Government as co-investment to build a commercial demonstrator plant in Grangemouth with commissioning due in 2018.