Off the wall: Winter 2016

A round-up of some of the more unusual stories coming out of the waste and resources world...

Comfortable in salmon skin

Think of sleek Scandinavian furniture design, and it’s unlikely that discarded salmon skins will come to mind – but they should do. Innovative Dutch designer, Nienke Hoogvliet, has constructed a chair, a rug and (perhaps counterintuitively) a fishing net out of salmon skin for her very unique textile project.

Fish skin is often a waste product within the seafood industry, and the designer has formulated a simple, chemical-free method to turn almost any kind of fish skin into a strong, durable yet stretchable material equal to regular leather. The skin is manually scaled and the remaining delicate, metallic layer is then oiled and hung to dry – but in a much more positive way than how unwanted fish and bycatch are normally hung out to dry…

Ugly customers

Proving that beauty isn’t even skin deep, the ‘Eat Ugly’ movement is gathering momentum as worldwide outrage against wasting cosmetically-imperfect produce grows.

@UglyFruitAndVeg, a Twitter account that forms part of Californian food activist Jordan Figueiredo’s End Food Waste campaign, aims to celebrate (ugly) produce to help combat agricultural waste and ensure people don’t go hungry. Promising ‘a few doses of "ugly" fun every day’, the feed is full of images of (often hilarious) mutant tomatoes, gnarled parsnips, heart-shaped peaches and, of course, a phallic carrot or two.

The Twitter account has over 35,000 followers, proving that #UglyReallyIsBeautiful

This article was taken from Issue 83

Guerrilla grafters

A rebellious force of fruit-loving activists is taking San Francisco by storm, grafting fruit-bearing branches onto the city’s sterile, ornamental trees. Their mission? To provide nutritious sustenance for free to those less able to afford decent meals.

Ornamental varieties are often chosen for metropolitan areas so as to avoid falling fruit creating a slippery mess and attracting vermin, but the agricultural rebels prevent this issue by assigning a ‘steward’ for each graft, responsible for maintenance of the tree by pruning, propping and watering.

The organisation has an online tree inventory that is mapping the urban harvest, spreading their tasty vandalism all across the globe!

Not-so-dirty rats

Despite the feelings they tend to instil in people (fear, revulsion), a team of highly trained giant African pouched rats are here to save the day. After liberating Mozambique of landmines left behind from the civil war, the HeroRATs’ next mission is to clean up a dangerous ammunition dump, with the goal of one day restoring the area and creating a nature reserve.

The brave crew of explosive-detecting rats systematically sniff out the mines (which can then be disabled by their human partners), but they are light enough that they don’t face the same danger as a person. The team is highly efficient and can cover an area of 200 square metres in about 20 minutes, a task that could take humans between two to four days.

You might not want to join them, but this is one rat race we can definitely get behind (at a safe distance).