Off the wall: Winter 2017

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

What would you do if you found yourself trapped in a dangerous material that you just couldn’t wriggle out of? It’d be a pretty desperate situation, but it’s one faced by our marine cousins on a daily basis: entanglement in plastic – millions of tonnes of which end up in the ocean each year – affects hundreds of species. To try and make this tragic result of our litter more relatable, an artist has come up with a new exhibit that brings the situation a bit closer to home.

Jeremy Carroll’s exhibit, appropriately entitled ‘Entanglement’, depicts humans caught up in waste typically found in seas and along beaches. Photos include a person with fishing nets around his neck and shoulders, and another with his head and arm caught in a plastic basket. The striking photos act as a stark reminder of the issues sea life faces as a result of our inadequate approach to marine plastic prevention. 

Photos from Jeremy Carroll's Entanglement exhibition

Scientists at the University of Bristol have developed a method of turning nuclear waste – usually an environmental headache – into batteries, using ‘man-made’ diamonds. The technology encapsulates radioactive material in the diamonds, which the Bristol boffins say creates a nuclear-powered battery that can generate a small electrical charge whilst blocking harmful radiation.

The batteries wouldn’t generate much power, but their longevity would be dictated by the life of the radiation itself, with a carbon-based battery potentially generating 50 per cent of its power in 5,730 years. The batteries could be used in high-altitude drones, pacemakers, spacecraft, and other places where replacing a battery is either very cumbersome or impossible. Volunteers to put the first nuclear battery in your chest, raise your hands...

With almost 500,000 tonnes of items of clothing going to landfill every year, many campaigns are encouraging us to move away from 'disposable fashion'.

Sportswear giant Adidas, however, is taking a different approach, teaming up with German company AMSilk to create a running shoe using biodegradable material that... dissolves in the sink? 

Biosteel is a synthetic spidersilk, crafted using genetically-modified bacteria, and AMSilk predicts that the shoes can withstand up to two years of high-impact wear, after which time shoe owners can simply dispose of their kicks using an enzyme that will dissolve the shoes at home in the sink. According to Adidas, the shoe, which it hopes will be hitting shelves in 2018, uses a fraction of the electricity and fossil fuels that plastics take to produce. We just hope we can fit it into our shoestring budget!


Waste fanatics may all know someone who can’t go on holiday without taking a few bin photos, but how would you fancy spending your holidays surrounded by waste? Angus Carnie from Carnoustie loves the idea so much that he built a holiday cabin entirely out of waste material. After 20 years in the recycling industry, he wanted to develop some innovative ideas for waste, and brought them together in his home, which took six months and £40,000 to build.

Painted with a mixture of waste photocopier toner powder, and insulated with a compressed conglomeration of different plastics, the log cabin, which is run using renewable sources, has work tops made from used hospital bed sheets, walls made from fast food packaging and even a coffee table from electrical cable reel. Puts our snaps of Greek recycling to shame... 

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