facebook linkedin twitter

Here’s Something to Chew on: Researchers Turn Food Scraps Into Materials Stronger Than Concrete
Their novel method diverts organic waste from landfills, provides useful materials for construction or packaging—and the end product still tastes good.

May 27, 2021 by Anthropocene

This article is by Prachi Patel and was originally published by Anthropocene magazine.

Why compost food scraps when you can make concrete with them? It’s not quite that simple, but researchers have found a way to turn fruit and vegetable scraps into tough building materials that remain edible and tasty after their transformation.

The idea could help divert part of the food waste that makes its way to landfills. Roughly 1.3 billion metric tons of food is wasted annually around the world, according to the United Nations. This is costly but also harmful to the environment, since growing food consumes large portions of the world’s water and energy. Plus, organic scraps decomposing in landfills produce methane emissions that spur climate change.

Researchers have previously proposed making fuels from food waste. A team from the University of Tokyo wanted to find a creative way to use waste fruits and vegetables. “Our goal was to use seaweed and common food scraps to construct materials that were at least as strong as concrete,” said Yuya Sakai, an industrial scientist at the university, in a press release.

But they also wanted to see if they could maintain the flavor in the leftovers. So they vacuum-dried various scraps, such as bits of seaweed and cabbage leaves, and the peels of orange, onion, pumpkin, and bananas. Then they pulverized the materials into powders, which they mixed with water and seasonings to make pastes that they pressed in molds at high temperature. This hot-press method is typically used to make construction materials from wood powder.

The team will report their research in the Proceedings of The 70th Annual Meeting of The Society of Materials Science, Japan. The brightly colored materials they made turned out to be edible but also durable. Left exposed to air for four months, the materials did not lose appearance or taste, and resisted rot and insects. Fibrous Chinese cabbage leaves resulted in the toughest material, over three times as strong as concrete.

Whether the materials could really be used for construction remains to be seen, but they could perhaps find novel uses in packaging, or even toys. After all, if a kid is going to chew on their toys, you might as well pack some flavor and nutrition into it.


Anthropocene magazine, published by Future Earth,  gathers the worlds’ best minds to explore how we might create a Human Age that we actually want to live in. 

Prachi Patel is a Pittsburgh-based freelance journalist who writes about energy, materials science, nanotechnology, biotechnology, and computing. Writes for Scientific American, IEEE Spectrum, Chemical & Engineering News, and MRS Bulletin. Find her at www.lekh.org.


Source: The work will be published in the proceedings of The 70th Annual Meeting of The Society of Materials Science, Japan as “Development of Novel Construction Material from Food Waste.”

In The News

September 28, 2021
by Reece Nations
Texas Republicans Redistricting Proposal Centers on Incumbency Protection

AUSTIN, Texas -- Republican lawmakers in Texas’ state Senate released their proposal for congressional redistricting on Monday. Texas acquired two... Read More

AUSTIN, Texas -- Republican lawmakers in Texas’ state Senate released their proposal for congressional redistricting on Monday. Texas acquired two new Congressional seats after the 2020 census data was published, bringing its total to 38 seats and 40 electoral votes in the electoral college. The current... Read More

September 28, 2021
by Kate Michael
AI Commission Final Report Confirms U.S. Lagging

WASHINGTON — To keep up with technological advancements and provide for enhanced national security, the National Security Commission on Artificial... Read More

WASHINGTON — To keep up with technological advancements and provide for enhanced national security, the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence was created. Its purpose was to make recommendations to the president and Congress that would “advance the development of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and associated... Read More

September 28, 2021
by Reece Nations
Senate Republicans Thwart Government Funding, Debt Ceiling Proposal

WASHINGTON -- Senate Republicans opted to oppose a funding bill needed to suspend the debt ceiling and prevent a government... Read More

WASHINGTON -- Senate Republicans opted to oppose a funding bill needed to suspend the debt ceiling and prevent a government shutdown in a procedural vote on Monday. The measure failed by a margin of 48 in favor to 50 against, with 60 votes needed for the... Read More

September 28, 2021
by Tom Ramstack
House Seeks More Job Protections for Nursing Mothers and Older Applicants

WASHINGTON -- A congressional panel on Monday considered whether changes are needed to two proposals for expanding workplace rights of... Read More

WASHINGTON -- A congressional panel on Monday considered whether changes are needed to two proposals for expanding workplace rights of nursing mothers and older job applicants before submitting them to final votes by lawmakers. The holdup on the bills is confusion about whether they would protect... Read More

September 28, 2021
by Tom Ramstack
California Utility to Pay $1.8 Billion to Settle Claims After Gas Leak

Southern California Gas Company agreed to pay $1.8 billion this week to settle a lawsuit filed on behalf of residents... Read More

Southern California Gas Company agreed to pay $1.8 billion this week to settle a lawsuit filed on behalf of residents of the Aliso Canyon area who were forced from their homes by a 2015 explosion and leak at a natural gas storage facility. The lawsuit accused... Read More

As Daughter Sought State License, Noem Summoned Agency Head

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Just days after a South Dakota agency moved to deny her daughter's application to become... Read More

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Just days after a South Dakota agency moved to deny her daughter's application to become a certified real estate appraiser, Gov. Kristi Noem summoned to her office the state employee who ran the agency, the woman's direct supervisor and the state... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top