Scientists turn food scraps into sturdy construction materials

By Lucy Jones  June 11th, 2021

Pulverised cabbage leaves produced a product three times stronger than concrete!

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A team of researchers from the University of Tokyo have found a novel new use for food waste: building stuff out of it. Pulverised seaweed, cabbage leaves and orange, onion and pumpkin skins were transformed into sturdy building materials by scientists from the university's Institute of Industrial Science.

“Our goal was to use seaweed and common food scraps to construct materials that were at least as strong as concrete,” the study's senior author, Yuya Sakai, said.

According to the United Nations, approximately 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted every year. If food waste was a country, it would be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter, behind the USA and China.

This research could help combat the massive financial and environmental cost of sending food to landfill by finding creative uses for our scraps.

The research team used a technique called 'heat pressing' usually used for making construction materials from wood powder to transform food scraps into solid materials. Powdered food was mixed with water and seasonings, pressed into a mould and cooked at a high temperature. The food waste blocks were then tested for durability and strength.

“With the exception of the specimen derived from pumpkin, all of the materials exceeded our bending strength target,” researcher Kota Machida explained. “We also found that Chinese cabbage leaves, which produced a material over three times stronger than concrete, could be mixed with the weaker pumpkin-based material to provide effective reinforcement.”

In addition to being incredibly strong, the materials also remained edible after four months exposed to air. There was no change to the colour, taste or shape during this time and no signs of rot, fungi or insects.

The research will be published during the 70th Annual Meeting of The Society of Materials Science in Japan this August.

Positive Environment News has been compiled using publicly available information. Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes. 

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Lucy Jones

Lucy started her career working as a writer and editor in print and digital publishing. She went on to create content for Australia's leading sustainable fashion platform while completing her Master of Cultural Studies. Lucy spends her downtime at the beach, crocheting and hanging out with her cat Larry. She believes words can change the world and is stoked to help Planet Ark spread the message of positive environmental change.

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