Researchers at Tokyo University have developed a new technology that can turn any type of food waste into edible cement for construction use, with a tensile strength quadruple that of ordinary concrete.
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The initiative was started by a desire to reduce global warming. Most food that goes to waste contributes to global warming by releasing methane gas into the atmosphere during decomposition. Further, cement production contributes up to 8% of global carbon dioxide emissions. Yuya Sakai, an associate professor of Industrial Science, ventured into research to find sustainable materials that could be used in cement production.
At first, Sakai developed a way of making concrete by subjecting wood particles to heat compression. The process involved three steps: drying, pulverization, and compression. He used simple mixers and compressors that can be purchased from Amazon. Later, Sakai with his student Kota Machida tried the same approach with food waste.
In their early trials, they had to use plastic to make the food waste cement tensile enough. However, after months of trials, they ended up with pure food waste cement simply by adjusting the temperature and pressure used in the process.
The researchers have so far been able to make cement using tea leaves, orange and onion peel, coffee grounds, Chinese cabbage, and even lunchbox leftovers in some cases. They have also been able to adjust the flavors of their product and give it different colors. They say that the cement can be eaten after being broken into pieces and boiled.
Sakai says the cement could be instrumental in making temporary homes for evacuation purposes where it can be converted into food should supplies run out. “For example, if food cannot be delivered to evacuees, they could eat makeshift beds made out of food cement,” he said.
To make the cement waterproof, it can be coated with Japanese lacquer. The researchers suggest this as a way of protecting it from being eaten by rodents. If adopted, the cement could be instrumental in reducing the growing global burden of waste.
“Our ultimate hope is that this cement replaces plastic and cement products, which have worse environmental impacts,” Machida said.
Lead image via Pexels