From trash to treasure: 9 building materials made from waste products

  • From trash to treasure: 9 building materials made from waste products

    According to Building with Waste, a book about building with waste materials, it is presumed that human settlements produce 1.3bn tonnes worth of solid waste products.

    This book suggests that in recent years, we’ve been putting our building materials to waste, as opposed to improvising on our resources and utilising them as cheap, durable and green building materials.

    Why let anything go to waste, right? Compilers Dirk E. Hebel, Marta H. Wisniewska and Felix Heise were inspired by architecture and the future for renewable energy. As specialists in the ‘garbology’ field, they’ve discovered new ways of picking up the pieces to a world crumbling to bits by a man-made rubbish phenomenon. These bits, or garbage as he puts it, is what you see at landfill sites. Their book pinpoints that society is indeed heading in a downhill slump of waste and pollution if we aren’t careful of how we preserve our environment.

    It’s a little ironic when the reason why there is so much pollution is due to the construction of buildings, per se. A lot of the time, construction activities contribute to air pollution, and include land clearing, operation of diesel engines, demolition, burning, and working with toxic materials – not to mention the air and noise pollution that conjures from it.

    All construction sites generate elevated levels of dust (typically from concrete, cement, wood, stone, silica) and this can carry in the air for large distances over a long period of time. Construction dust is classified as PM10 – particulate matter less than 10 microns in diameter – which is invisible to the naked eye.

    Construction is one thing, where if history has taught us anything, it’s through the industrial revolution. A whole town would be under a smog just to power a conveyer belt, that is now controlled more responsibly… we hope.

    Britain: Industrial Revolution

    Dryland salinity is so bad in some parts of our country that it is sometimes known as “white death”, and currently affects more than 5 million hectares of land and causing damage in excess of $270 million each year. The National Land and Water Resources Audit estimates that another 5.7 million hectares have a high potential for the development of dryland salinity, and they predict this to rise to 17 million hectares by 2050.

    As author Mitchell Joachim suggests, ‘The future city makes no distinction between waste and supply.’

    From animal blood bricks to nappy roofing, here are some examples of waste-based products used for building a scrap free future.

    1. Newspaper wood

    This design is one of Norway’s ingenious ideas. It comes after over 1m tonnes of paper and cardboard are recycled every year – a staggering figure, and something that’s the very cause of the high-waste and pollution the world is seeing. Believe it or not, the wood is crafted from paper – much like the chicken or the egg – which one came first? A solvent-free glue is then added to make something what resembles to a log, then chopped into usable planks of ‘paperwood’. The wood is totally waterproof and flame-retardant, and can be used for anything you’d normally build with plain old wood.

    2. Nappy roofing

    Tiles can now be made out of what was once used for nappies: that’s right, nappies and sanitary products. Special recycling plants separate out the polymers from the organic waste and these polymers can then be used to create fibre-based construction materials like the tiles.




    3. Recycled blocks

    These bricks are made from old thrown out plastic bags, as they are known to be difficult to recycle in any other way. Recycled bags or plastic packaging are heated and forced together to form the blocks. These bricks can act as load-bearing walls, and can be used to divide walls and corridors.






    4. Blood brick

    British architecture Jack Munro proposes using freeze-dried blood (which comes as a a powder), mixed with sand to form a paste; this can then be cast as bricks. This could be especially useful in remote communities, where blood from animal slaughter is plentiful, but strong construction materials are scarce.




    5. Bottle bricks

    The practice of creating construction materials actually started with beer company Heineken in the 1960s – Alfred Henry Heineken, when he visited a Carribean island and was dismayed at both lack of shelter, and the number of discarded Heineken bottles scattered everywhere. So the company thought of an innovative approach, transforming these bottles into brick-shaped designs. The bottleneck fits into the base of the bottle, forming an interlocking line.






    6. Smog insulators

    One of the foremost waste receptacles is the air itself, which is taking a burden on the human race’s survival, particularly on earth where its only getting hotter.”Dustyrelief”, a scheme created by the City of Bangkok and design firm New-Territories, involves placing an electrically charged metal mesh over a building, which attracts large smog particles and sticks them together.




    7. Mushroom walls

    Designers figured out a way to grow wall insulator and packing materials using mycelium, a bacteria found in rotting organisms like tree trunks and agricultural byproducts. If placed in a mould, these organic matters grow to the desired shape within a couple of days, and can then be stopped using a hot oven. This is particularly useful because traditional insulating and packing materials tend to be non-biodegradable, or, in the case of asbestos, poisonous.



    8. Plasphalt

    Plasphalt is made up of grains of plastic produced from plastic waste, which replaces the sand and gravel traditionally used in asphalt production. Plasphalt is the combination of terms asphalt and plastic and is proven that these recycled products are far less sensitive to wear and tear (literally), then the typical asphalt we see on our roads today. This is due to the asphalt emulsion bonded better with plastic than with gravel or sand.



    9. Wine cork panels

    These wall and floor tiles are made from combining recycled granulated cork with whole wine corks, which you can see as those oblong shapes in the tiles above. This is an excellent idea, considering the world apparently consumes around 31.7bn bottles of wine a year.