About half of all the food produced in the world ends up in the trash, accounting for about 60 million tons of food. Applying circular thinking to food waste in conjunction with construction waste could mean pouring less produce into landfills while simultaneously making building materials that are recyclable to keep construction waste out of dumps.
Meanwhile, some materials could be grown like crops, eliminating excess waste entirely. In their report The Urban Bio Loop, the engineering firm sees our future buildings made from pineapples, potatoes, mushrooms, corn, oranges, bananas and more. “It is well known that the so-called ‘business as usual’ scenario does not represent a viable option for a sustainable future and that different development models have to be identified for our society to continue growing and prospering in the future,” Arup writes in its report.
Cities built with food waste
The construction industry must reflect this urgency of change–probably more than others. In fact, it is still permeated by a number of detrimental factors such as the use of high impact materials, non-reversible building solutions, low-efficiency processes and manufacturing.
A number of companies and designers are already experimenting with food-based materials for construction built with food waste. In 2014, MoMA used 10,000 bricks constructed from mushrooms to build an experimental tower. The startup that grew the materials, Ecovative, said the bricks can be tailored to different densities and substitute particleboard and Styrofoam for insulation.
In Germany, the company Wood K Plus has been experimenting with a building material made from corn cobs, which are strong, insulating, and inexpensive. The boards could be used for lightweight walls, doors, and furniture.
Then there’s the company Enviroboard, which is making walls from compressed wheat; Leoxx, which is making biodegradable textiles and carpets from banana plants; Organiods, which is making acoustic panels from a blend of seeds, stalks, and leaves; Materia, which is creating a cork substitute out of potato peels, which is fire resistant, water repellent, and lightweight, and can be used for acoustic and thermal insulation.
But it doesn’t stop there. The Thai company Kokoboard is using waste material from sunflower crops to poduce non-toxic, high-strength boards that can be used for floors, ceilings, and internal walls. And in the leather-replacement space, Ananas Anam, a British startup, is using pineapples to make upholster-worthy leather substitutes, and Orange Fiber, a startup in Italy, weaves sustainable fabrics the cellulose fibres of citrus peels, which could also be used for upholstery.
Source: World Economic Forum