Kaumera: from wastewater to raw material

Energie- & Grondstoffenfabriek, an initiative of all Dutch water authorities, developed Kaumera, a raw material derived from wastewater. To show its versatility, 3 Dutch designers used the raw material in their very different projects.

Kaumera Nereda Gum (formerly known as Neo-alginate) is extracted from sludge granules from a water purification process known as Nereda. This innovative process makes cleaning water more sustainable, using bacteria to form a biopolymer that can be reclaimed. This biopolymer is Kaumera.

The name Kaumera means chameleon in Maori, showing the versatility of the material. By combining this biopolymer with other raw materials, the character of the substance changes. Kaumera is an amplifier and connector of properties. It can be hydrophobic and hydrophilic. This ensures that the application possibilities are practically endless.

The Energie- en Grondstoffenfabriek asked 3 Dutch designers, Nienke Hoogvliet, Billie van Katwijk and Jeroen Wand, to experiment with this new raw material, whose projects were on display during Dutch Design Week 2018.

Kaumera Kimono
Based on the knowledge that textile dyes cause heavy pollution, Hoogvliet searched for a way to use Kaumera to contribute to reducing the damage, as well as tackling the concept of fast fashion. Hoogvliet found that Kaumera makes textile absorb dyes better, so less water is needed and therefore, less water is polluted. To add colour to the textiles, she used two natural dyes extracted from wastewater: Anammox and Vivianite.

From the textile, Hoogvliet made a kimono as an act of rebellion against fast fashion. Kimonos are passed on for generations, cherished and valued.

Van Katwijk developed a ceramic glaze using Kaumera. She pays homage to the classic funnel beaker, combing “the ancient mud shape with the latest scientific insights”.

Rather than mixing Kaumera with other materials, Wand used the material pure and applied it as a glue, highlighting its aesthetic properties.

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