Off the wall Jan-Feb 2013

Resource takes a look at the weird and wonderful uses that 'waste' materials are being put towards

Cycling to work

Here at Resource, we’re all keen on cycling to work, but what about cycling at work? Pedal Power’s Big Rig would have us powering our laptops from our own muscle power! 

Featuring a work surface and an ergonomic seat for comfort, the device allows an average adult to generate between a third and one horsepower while pedaling – plenty for the average computer. 

“Bicycle technology is nearly perfect. So why do we use it only for transportation?” asks the Pedal Power team. “There are a billion bicycles in the world today – nearly one in every home. One day, we hope to see every household charging phones, processing food, and pumping water with pedal power.”

With a Kickstarter campaign that hit its target way before deadline, the Big Rig might just have enough power to take off. 

A new kind of poop deck

Most people, if confronted with a plague of snails in their garden, wouldn’t collect the creatures to do research into their defecating habits. But, then, it takes all sorts, and that’s exactly what Dutch artist and researcher Lieske Schreuder did, potentially giving the world a new sort of flooring along the way.

‘I designed a laboratory in which I was able to perform a controlled research into the paper eating habits of snails (Helix aspersa gros gris) and their excrements’, Schrueuder explains on her website, adding: ‘The result was that snails do not only eat [coloured] paper, but also defecate in [colour]. So blue paper means blue excrements!’

Not content with this amazing discovery, Schreuder began considering what to do with all her coloured snail excrement, and eventually found she could mould the faeces into floor tiles, which could potentially replace linoleum.

The only catch? The snails produce this material at a snail’s pace – it takes seven snails six days to produce six grammes of excrement.  

Space-age showering

In space, astronauts have to recycle their water, which led Swedish industrial designer Mehrdad Mahdjoubi to wonder why we can’t do that here on earth, too. Well, thanks to him, now we can. 

The OrbSys Shower continuously recycles its water using a ‘closed-loop system’: hot water falls from the tap to the drain and is instantly purified to drinking water standard and then pumped back out of the showerhead. The water only needs to be reheated very slightly, and it’s said to save more than 90 per cent in water usage and
80 per cent in energy every time you take a shower.

“With my shower… you’d only use about five litres of water for a 10-minute shower… In a regular shower you would use 150 litres of water – 30 times as much. It’s a lot of savings”, explains Mahdjoubi.

This article was taken from Issue 75

According to his company, Orbital Systems, these savings could translate to substantial money off yearly energy and water bills, too: the average UK family of four would save upwards of £1,000, the company says.

Cigarette chic

It probably wouldn’t be many people’s material of choice, but a Chilean clothes designer has come up with a novel way of turning one of the ‘most littered’ types of waste, cigarette butts, into something stylish.

Fed up with seeing spent cigarettes littering Santiago, Alexandra Guerrero has developed a system that turns the litter into colourful textiles by mixing the tissue of the cigarette filter with wool to produce ponchos, jumpers and even hats. 

“In this project, we collect and purify the filters of cigarette butts by soaking them in alcohol for 24 hours, resulting in 95 per cent purification of the material – cellulose acetate”, the designer explains. Before the butts are dyed and hand-spun with wool, they also undergo an elaborate treatment process involving autoclave sterilisation, rinsing, drying and shredding. The liquid produced is currently being tested for use as a biological insecticide.

Through this work, Guerrero hopes to prove that it is possible to recycle virtually anything, however small (or yukky).