A Glass for Next Generations

A Glass for Next Generations

Glass is a more environmentally friendly alternative to plastic, and has the ability to be recycled endlessly. But like many other materials glass isn’t perfect, especially if we’re not using it efficiently. Glass is made from natural materials, one of them being sand, which is facing a worldwide shortage. The processing of glass also makes it have a higher carbon footprint, due to the high temperatures needed to heat it. But what if we could replace some of the materials, such as soda (sodium carbonate) and (limestone) calcium carbonate, used to make glass with waste, reducing the materials final impact. Studio Peipei have looked into this solution by using waste from restaurants, such as wood ash and shells, in their sustainable glass. 


The availability of the ingredients used in glass is changing due to climate change, urbanisation, overuse and industrial production methods. The sodium carbonate used is extracted from salt lakes, and then needs heating at extremely high temperatures. Many natural salt lakes are shrinking due to climate change, at a rate estimated at 50% since 1847. While the limestone comes from mines and was formed over hundreds of millions of years, the annual usage of 5000 million tons of limestone makes it a dwindling resource. 

Sand is the world’s second most consumed natural resource. But even though it may seem like we have lots of sand to use, we don’t. Desert sand is actually unsuitable for use in many materials, such as concrete. This is because it is eroded by wind making it too smooth. Whereas sand from rivers, lakes and seabeds is much more suitable. But these resources are being stripped bare to keep up with demand. 


Studio Peipei have created a new glass that discovers infinite supply chains by using waste called ‘from the ashes’. Wood ash from pizza bakeries and clamshells from seafood restaurants. These renewable materials are consistently available in large quantities all around the world, and are usually just thrown away. The sand component is still being used but the team are working on finding a more sustainable alternative. Although the sand being used is sourced from coastal erosion instead of exhausted water sources. The final glass hopes to influence the use of waste in future materials, and also working on closed-loop material cycles, as the glass can be ground into sand again after use. 


Potassium carbonate can be extracted from wood ash, which is why utilising pizza ovens ash works so well. Private wood-burning stoves could also be a valuable source, and many more such as grills and fire pits have been tested. Seashells consist largely of calcium carbonate, so can be ground to give glass durability. This basic recipe creates the brown version of the new glass. While the green variant is made using some glass recycled from glassblowers, that they could no longer use such as coloured and contaminated shards. This in turn lowers the melting point and saves further energy use.



Studio Peipei