ourcarbon by bioforcetech: turning sludge into material

 have you ever thought about what happens to everything we send down the drain? it’s a long, dirty story that often ends with a landfill and a lot of greenhouse gas emissions.  san francisco based company bioforcetech reveals an energy neutral way to transform organic waste into a grayscale pigment and material additive called OurCarbon. made from sewage sludge – also known as biosolids – this material creates a new narrative in sustainable innovation. 

debuting at dutch design week this october, bioforcetech highlights the applications that their material can be used for and the coal based materials it can replace.

bioforcetech reveals OurCarbon, a pigment made from sewage sludge
municipally compostable plastic (PLA) colored by OurCarbon pigment

THE PROCESS: EXTRACTING THE MATERIAL

the innovative project put forth by bioforcetech starts with the process of diverting organic material destined for landfill like food waste and biosolids. had they gone to landfill, these materials would break down and form methane, a powerful greenhouse gas contributing to climate change. next, the diverted organics are dried with help from thermophilic bacteria and put through pyrolysis – a heating process in the absence of oxygen. 

working together, these two technologies actually generate the energy required to run them. once transformed into OurCarbon, the carbon in the organics is bonded together, preventing it from breaking down and emitting for thousands of years. but what do you do with this material once you’ve created it? 

bioforcetech reveals OurCarbon, a pigment made from sewage sludge
‘potted carbon’ is a porcelain planter by sum studio made using OurCarbon as a glazing bead

APPLYING OURCARBON INTO EVERYDAY OBJECTS

OurCarbon’s new exhibit at dutch design week gives us a few examples. the locked carbon material is used as a pigment which can be used to color paints, 3D print filament, wood stains, and even in a new 80% bio-based screen printing ink by virus inks. a beautiful grey can be achieved when using OurCarbon as a textile dye, and when added to glass in a kiln the material leaves behind a coral colored iron oxide pigment.

as a material additive, OurCarbon is featured in a bio-based resin, in concrete, and even porcelain. each of these applications are not just beautiful; they also replace carbon intensive equivalents like carbon black pigment, mined and shipped concrete aggregates, harmful azo dyes used by the fashion industry, 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 our atmosphere (that’s about the same as taking two cars off the road for an entire year). with each of bioforcetech’s installations producing over a ton a day, OurCarbon has the potential to make a big impact. 

you can check out OurCarbon’s exhibit entitled ‘what a waste.’ at dutch design week in eindhoven, netherlands, from october 16-24. the exhibit is open to the public and, in true closed loop design, is light in carbon footprint and completely recyclable!