Off the wall: Winter 2017

A round-up of the more unusual stories from the funny old world of waste and resources...

Shady environmentalists

Forget your £2 paper lanterns from IKEA, two beautiful new lighting designs have come to Resource’s attention that we just had to share with you.

Off the wall: Winter 2017The first is from biotechnologist Julian Melchiorri. Called the Exhale Chandelier, the design consists of custom-made glass ‘leaves’ that are populated with green algae, which absorb carbon dioxide from the air, while simultaneously providing extra oxygen for you to breathe. So far, the designer-engineer is exploring how synthetic biology, biomimicry and biomaterials might come together to help solve the sustainability crisis. “Over the last century, our constantly growing population has been burning fossil fuels and destroying plant life, basically forcing a change in the atmosphere and climate, reverse-terraforming our planet,” he says. “Having this constant issue in mind, [I] experiment with ways of making materials that can effectively photosynthesise and explored how this can positively impact the world around us.”

The second design is made from Off The Wall pet material, mycelium. Design team Sebastian Cox and Ninela Ivanova have created a collection of mycelium-based accessories that have asoft, leathery feel created using coppiced strips of goat willow wood, woven to form moulds with added fomes fomentarius, a kind of fungus that feasts upon the wooden scraps. After a stint in the mould, the shaped mass of interwoven threads is dried. Says Ivanova: “What really excites us both is how you take this material out of the conceptual phase and put it into people’s homes. It’s not just about the fungus, it’s about the marriage of the two materials. These two materials have a natural relationship in the woodland, so let’s see how we can exploit that.”

Waste of a nation 

The Plastics Ocean Foundation has teamed up with British social content aggregator LADbible to have the Great Pacific Garbage Patch formed in the Pacific Ocean reconigsed as the world's 196th nation - named the Trash Isles. 

LADbible submitted a Declaration of Independence to the UN on World Oceans Day in June to seek recognition of the Trash Isles as an official country and thereby protection by the UN's Envrionmental Charters. There is no solid mass of waste bobbing on the ocean, and indeed the currents mean that much of the waste is below the surface, but estimates suggest that hundreds of thousands of plastic are carried around the ocean by gyres, with more material being added every day. 

The theoretical Trash Isles have been launched to raise awarness of the amount of plastic amassing in the ocean, and already have ther own currency (debris) and flag, as well as a Queen (Dame Judi Dench) and famous citizens in the form of Sir Mo Farah and Al Gore. LADbible hopes to get together a national anthem, general elections and even a national football team, though followers will be anything but plastic supporters.

A brush with recycling 

What do you do with your toothbrush at the end of its life? The Carnoustie man who built his house from recycled and discarded materials has come up with a new idea for that dilemma of what to do with your splayed toothbrushes – just turn them into bins!

Angus Carnie, who has 20 years of experience working in the recycling industry as a commercial bin designer, has come up with a plan to encourage people to return their used toothbrushes to dentists, pharmacies and supermarkets then turn them into waste containers. Carnie suggests that to get proper collection going, customers buying a new toothbrush could take their old one along to get a discount. Talking to Dundee’s Evening Telegraph, Carnie said: “Considering the number of used toothbrushes out there, it’s bizarre there’s no recycling process. We need to make it simpler to recycle.” It’s an idea that Carnie is keen to get his teeth into.