‘Deep recycled’ panels made of de-inking sludge

Scenographer Inga Aleknavičiūtė, in collaboration with German company Zelfo Technology and paper company Leipa Paper, created panels made of de-inking sludge as a form of ‘deep recycling’.

De-inking sludge, a residual sludge from the paper industry, left over after recycling paper, is a by-product that is commonly regarded as waste. It consists of minerals, paper fibres, minor amounts of pigments and polymers. The sludge is regarded as “the very bottom of the material food chain”.

Aleknavičiūtė, along with Zelfo, a company that engineers cellulose fibres to render them self-binding, used this sludge provided by Leipa, developed jet black panels made of this waste material. Because the sludge is regarded as “waste of the waste”, the process was dubbed ‘deep recycling’.

The panels are part of performances in the Egyptian galleries in the Neues Museum in Berlin, Germany, called ‘Black Land’. The series of performances and installations reference the texts and images found on plant based Papyri ‘papers’ from Elephantine (an island on the Nile). The panels developed by Aleknavičiūtė were used as a modern metaphor in reference to the alluvium rich sludge found on the banks of the river Nile. This sludge was as vital to the ancient Egyptians as “sustainable materials [are] to the survival of the planet today.”

The first version of the panels was shown at the BIORAMA-Projekt ‘Matter to Matter’ exhibition in 2021. Since then, the panels were improved.

Photos: Inga Aleknavičiūtė / Lutz Knospe