Reusing Our Waste

Reusing Our Waste

We disconnected with naturally occurring materials with the introduction of plastics, these new virgin materials were clean and versatile. But as we become more aware of how harmful these non renewable materials can be, we are starting to go back to our roots by using naturally occurring materials that are found around us. But some designers have gone a step further and are looking at human bodies as a way of making materials. By harnessing our waste could we become more even more environmentally neutral by creating circular economies? And what can be done to change the stigma behind our own waste products?

Hair Highway by Studio Swine /

Hair Highway explores the potential of human hair as a material to replace materials such as tortoise shell or acetate plastic. Hair is a renewable material created by humans, and other animals. It also has many useful qualities and precious materials within it. Its waste is seen as a nucessence as it clogs up waterways and can generate a harmful dust. Therefore, with a growing population and a greater need for materials can we harness hair to create products?

This is Urine by Sinae Kim /

Sinae Kim has created a collection of ceramic objects which use urine as a glaze.

The collection features a series of ceramic vessels inspired by the shape of the human bladder and laboratory flasks, which Kim has glazed using human urine.

The ceramics industry normally uses metal oxide glazes that have the potential to cause metal poisoning. Urine can play the same role as glaze as they have similar minerals such as Iron, Calcium, Sodium, Potassium and Magnesium. The urine is distilled through evaporation, which results in a residual paste with is a dark orange-brown colour. When heated, the silica merges with the minerals in the urine, creating a glossy coating. 

Urine has always been used as material in different societies, such as for planting, cleansing, therapeutic medicine, whitening teeth and tanning leather. But in modern society it is seen as an undesirable waste product. 

Perspire by Alice Potts /

Alice Potts has created a collection of objects which are encrusted with crystals. These crystals are in fact made from sweat. She wants to highlight the importance of sweating as a natural process that every human goes through. Each unique piece is different as it is based on the participant’s natural process of perspiration. She has also explored using urine to make crystals. 

Water, sodium, chloride, potassium, urea, lactate, amino acids, bicarbonate and calcium are all found within sweat. So by creating different processes we are able to make different materials from each of them.