Looking to food waste as a source of material inspiration and innovation




Material Research


Food & Drink



A growing amount of household food waste

More than 900 million tonnes of food is discarded each year, with an estimated 60% of this generated by households.

I’ve been particularly interested in how waste streams can be used to develop new suites of materials, so this is an ongoing series of experiments to see how eggshell and tea leaves (two of our household’s main food waste products) can be harnessed.


Food waste in the UK is still estimated at 4.5 tonnes annually
Image: The Guardian


Elegant compostable and disposable dishes 
Image: Wasara


Anima is a tableware collection made from household food waste such as bones
Image: Kosuke Araki


Nolla is a zero waste restaurant concept that was launched via crowdfunding
Image: Nolla


Totomoxtle is a veneer crafted from the husks of heirloom native Mexican corn
Image: Fernando Laposse

Rethinking food and food waste

An increased focus on sustainable consumption is giving rise to exploration of concepts such as zero waste cuisine, local provenance and compostable tableware. I’m interested in investigating how food and waste can be successfully combined in dining experiences, but keeping an open mind in terms of specific applications.

First steps with sodium alginate

The initial experiments were based on an existing recipe found on open-source platform Materiom, combining ground eggshell with sodium alginate. This was so that the resulting composite would still be compostable at end-of-life.

I used larger pieces of eggshell as I wanted to preserve their colour and appearance, using natural ingredients such as paprika and spirulina as colouring agents.

Combining tea leaves and eggshell

These were attempts at incorporating both tea leaves and eggshells in some roughly-shaped shallow dishes, resulting in an interesting speckled rock-like appearance. I experimented with using fresh tea leaves versus ones that had been steeped repeatedly, and different concentrations of material.

Harnessing the colours of nature

Next, I looked at how using different types of eggshell and tea might impact the aesthetics and functionality of each composite. It was really interesting to discover the variances in properties such as appearance, weight, density and drying time.

What about coffee?

We took a detour to look at the viability of using coffee grounds with the alginate instead, although this proved to be difficult in terms of drying. This was followed with another experiment to determine the best drying method for samples: air-drying, dehydrating or baking.

Moving from alginate to shellac

Up until this point, I had been using sodium alginate as a binder for its compostability but this was not particularly water-resistant, even with the help of a beeswax coating.

Inspired by the craft of eggshell lacquer, I decided to try out confectioner’s glaze (or food-grade shellac) as a next step, building up multiple layers of colour and material. This turned out to be far more effective and able to hold water for more than 48 hours without falling apart or leaking.

Wood flour provides a
ceramic-like aesthetic

The first shellac experiments looked promising, so I worked on producing some slightly larger tiles and incorporating wood flour as an additional filler. This helped to create a more even surface by filling out some of the cracks and also resulted in an almost ceramic-like appearance.

Bio-Bespoke is a continuous research project and updates will be added periodically.

Explore other Research projects:

Culinary CMF

Culture Comforts

Trehalose Artefacts