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Student turns discarded shells into tiles

Words by Smiley Team

A university student has come up with an innovative idea to turn mussel shells into bio-glass tiles.

For context: a species called “quagga mussel shells” started clogging London’s water pipes nearly 10 years ago. 

To remove them, Thames Water has had to spend millions of pounds – and these shells then end up in landfill. But Lulu Harrison, a student at London’s Central Saint Martins, has created glass tiles from these shells. And they look pretty impressive.

“Inspired by ancient glass making processes, for the last two years I have been creating unique batch recipes from local and waste materials sourced in and around the River Thames,” she wrote, for her graduate showcase

“These include local sand samples, waste shells from water companies, and waste wood ash or bracken from the surrounding forests which is cut down for management control.” 

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In collaboration with Thames Water, she discovered a way to make use of the tonnes of invasive quagga mussels that block water pipes. “Working closely with the production and design team at Here Design, glass blowers and glass archaeologists, I have now created the first prototypes of the ‘Thames Glass’ carafe and tumbler - to promote drinking tap water, rather than buying plastic bottles,” she wrote.

She has also started working with Bureau de Change, an award-winning architecture practice, and exploring the possibilities of creating glass tiles that could be utilised in future building design. 

“Throughout this process, I have become interested in finding alternatives to the highly processed and unsustainable materials often used in glass making and creating a geo-specific glass from materials which are distinctive to a certain area,” she says. 

“Through incorporating 21st century waste materials into glass making, this project represents the idea of Future Archaeology, and rethinking the way we view glass, and waste today.”

Inspired to act?

DISCOVER: Find out more about how Lulu created the glass tiles.

TAKE ACTION: Want to reuse materials like Lulu has? Get involved with the ReUse Network.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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