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Seafood waste turned into concrete alternative

by Ofentse Sefolo
Seafood waste turned into concrete alternative

Globally we consume millions of tons of seafood and the waste, such as shells, inevitably ends up in landfills or on beaches.

Newtab-22 is the ambitious company looking at using the waste from seashells salvaged from the seafood and aquaculture industries to develop a sustainable material that resembles concrete.

Sea Stone
Named Sea Stone, the material is made by grinding down shells that are destined for landfill before combining them with natural, non-toxic binders. This grants Sea Stone a terrazzo-like aesthetic.

According to Newtab-22, Sea Stone could become a sustainable alternative to concrete in the design of small-scale products, as the two materials share similar properties. This is because seashells are rich in calcium carbonate, otherwise known as limestone, which is used to make cement – a key ingredient of concrete.

Sea Stone evolved from Newtab-22’s aspiration to help alleviate the issue of waste in the seafood industry, which it claims results in seven million tons of seashells discarded every year.

Sea Stone proposes the use of discarded seashells to create environmentally and economically sustainable material, rather than contributing to the world’s rubbish problem.

Even though some of the seashells have been recycled and used as fertilisers, most of it are being thrown into landfills or by the seaside. The discarded seashells, which are uncleaned or rotten, have not been cleared away at all and they have been piling up near the beach for a long time, thus causing odour pollution and polluting the surrounding land in the long run.

The production processes
The process of making Sea Stone involves grinding down the shells and mixing them with natural binders. They are then added to a mould and left to solidify into concrete-like pieces.

This method is currently carried out manually to avoid the use of heat, electricity and chemical treatments; and to ensure the process is as sustainable and affordable as possible.

It results in variations in the sizes, textures and colours of the shell fragments and means that each piece of Sea Stone is unique. Differences can also occur by altering the quantities of shells and binders, or by adding coloured dyes.

Terrazzo-like aesthetic
While the properties of the concrete and Sea Stone are similar, to truly replicate the strength of traditional concrete required in large-scale projects like buildings an energy-intensive heating process would be required. This would be comparable to the method used to make cement, which accounts for half of all the CO₂ emissions that result from using concrete.

“The power of the material is different,” explained Hyein Choi, co-founder of Newtab-22. “We do not want to harm the environment in the process or the outcome.”

“If you put in high energy and costs, it is highly possible to use Sea Stone as real cement. It is paradoxical and controversial, we think, as this leads to secondary pollution,” she added.

Moving towards large-scale production
Newtab-22’s interest in using discarded materials developed while its founders, Choi and Jihee Moon, were enrolled on the Royal College of Art’s design products course.

The pair has now moved to Seoul, South Korea, to continue developing the project, as they claim the issue of seafood waste is rife in this country.

Newtab-22 has experimented with an array of natural binders in the development of Sea Stone, including sugar and agar. It is now reliant on two undisclosed and patent-pending sources. The material is currently being developed for commercial purposes and has so far been used to make products such as decorative tiles, table tops, plinths and vases.

We watch this space with interest.

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