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Brief Published: 2 Oct 2018

Vegetable Waste is Being Used to Boost Materials


Sustainable thinking for the future is driving developments in enhanced and optimised materials and products. Vegetable waste is one stream being explored to provide stronger, more efficient and eco-friendlier alternatives. We profile two examples.

  • Researchers at Lancaster University in the UK have developed a method to significantly improve the strength of concrete using extracts from waste root vegetables from the food industry.

    To create the enhanced material, extracted vegetable nanoplatelets are combined with ordinary cement – the key binding ingredient in concrete. This increases the amount of calcium silicate hydrate in the composite, which is the main substance that gives concrete its strength. The team have found that the vegetable-enhanced composite outperforms all commercially available cement additives, including graphene and carbon nanotubes.

    The production of cement currently accounts for up to 8% of the world’s total carbon dioxide emissions (Earth System Science Data, 2018). The team hopes that the new concrete could help reduce this figure – by boosting the material’s performance, smaller quantities would be needed in construction.
  • UK start-up Chip[s]Board produces an eco-friendly wood substitute made from industrial potato waste. Discarded pulp and peel is collected from potato-chip manufacturers and then treated and compacted into a sheet material.

    The namesake material has similar properties to chipboard and MDF, but is biodegradable post-use and doesn’t contain any toxic resins, chemicals or formaldehyde. It’s suitable for flatpack furniture and other interior applications.

    The start-up is currently exploring other applications, as well as developing a plastic-like material called Parblex, also made from potato waste. 

For other innovative projects using food industry byproducts, see Waste Pioneers and Revalued Resources in Visual Directions: The Future of Flavour.  Reusing organic waste was a key theme at London Design Festival, see our Colour & Materials report. 

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