A sewage sludge-based material as pigment and additive

OurCarbon is a material made energy neutrally from organic waste like sewage sludge. As prove of concept, the company asked various designers and studios to show the material’s potential.

OurCarbon is made by a San Fransisco (US) company called Bioforcetech. The material is made from sewage sludge, also known as biosolids, and turned into a carbon-based pigment and material additive.

The material is made by diverting organs material destined for the landfill, like food waste and biosolids, where they are dried with the help of thermophilic bacteria and put through a process called pyrolysis, in which the waste is heated in the absence of oxygen. Working together, the two technologies generate the energy required to run them, making the process energy neutral. The carbon molecules in the organics are bonded together, preventing them from breaking down, like would have happened if the original waste had been left on the landfill.

It’s all nice and good to make a new material, but it does need a purpose. As proof of concept, OurCarbon asked various studios and designers to show the material’s potential. The results include a pigment to colour paints, 3D print filament, wood stains and screen printing ink. The 80% bio based screen printing ink by Virus Inks that includes OurCarbon is already commercially available.

Other applications include grey textile dye, and when added to glass in a kiln, the material leaves behind a coral coloured iron oxide pigment. The material is also used as additive in bio based resin, concrete and porcelain (read more about this project here).

OurCarbon is not just added for fun, it replaces carbon intensive equivalents like carbon black pigment, concrete aggregates, harmful ado dyes or synthetic fertilizers. For every ton of OurCarbon produced from biosolids that have been diverted from landfill, they prevent 10 tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere.

During Dutch Design Week last week, the applications were on display in an exhibition called ‘What a waste’.

Textile Dye – Masfuerte New York Fall/Winter 2021 Line
Pigmented Glass Tiles – Biochar Glass Tiles – Aaron Ethan Green
Ceramic Glaze – Potted Carbon – Sum Studio
Screen Printing Ink – Ink made by Virus Inks, design by Saleem M’Boge
Concrete Additive – Brick Lamp by Niles Fromm
Paint Pigment – Labyrinth by Sofia Shu
3D Print Resin – ‘Essential’ Travel Sum Studio