How Scientists Turn Food Scraps Into Strong Building Materials


The world is wasting 1.4 billion tons of food per year, which is very harmful to the environment. What if this food waste could become a resource? Researchers in Japan have found a way to use discarded food scraps to create a substitute for concrete. Not only does this reduce food waste, but the resulting material is edible and smells pleasantly sweet.

“Our goal was to use common algae and food scraps to build materials at least as strong as concrete,” said concrete engineer Yuya Sakai. Recount the Good News Network.

“Since we were using edible food waste, we also wanted to determine if the recycling process had an impact on flavor.”

Yuya Sakai

“But since we were using edible food scraps, we also wanted to find out if the recycling process had any impact on the flavor of the source materials.”

Image provided by Yuya Sakai.

What did they do: Sakai student Kota Machida was inspired by Sakai’s early work, which used a hot-pressing method to take recycled concrete and wood powder and press them into building materials. Instead, they used vacuum-dried food scraps, including orange, cabbage, seaweed, onion, mango and banana peels.

“I found out that a huge amount of food waste is generated every year in Japan, and I think that’s a big problem that we need to address,” said graduate student Kota. Recount Newsweek, adding that this new material is safe to eat but rather crunchy.

The process is much like baking granola bars. They mix leftover powdered food with water and press it into a mold at high temperature (50 to 150 degrees Celsius) to make the material. The result, they say, is four times stronger than concrete.

“Without waterproof treatment, the material may be soft by moisture. Thus, the material is softened by saliva and becomes chewable,” Sakai said in an email, adding that the material retains the smell and taste of the original food, but that it is stronger than concrete and plasterboard.

The team even added seasonings.

“With the exception of the pumpkin-derived specimen, all materials exceeded our goal for flexural strength,” Kota said. Recount the Good News Network. “We also found that Chinese cabbage leaves, which produced a material more than three times stronger than concrete, could be mixed with the weaker pumpkin material to provide effective reinforcement.”

Next steps: Already, product manufacturers are interested in the material to create items such as furniture and boxes. And Sakai says some companies are trying to use it for interior finishes. But it will require more research and testing before it becomes an approved building material.

“The binding mechanism of these materials is not completely clarified yet, so we need to study and prove them. This will be the next step. We also want to investigate a wider variety of food remains,” Sakai told Newsweek.

A material strong enough to construct a tasty and edible building – I can only imagine the creative applications.

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