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Japanese Researchers Make Edible Cement From Food Waste

by Coffee Table Science
Researchers at Tokyo University, Japan, have developed a technology that can convert waste food into cement for construction. The cement formed is edible and has tensile or bending strength four times the conventional concrete. With this innovation, researchers expect to reduce global warming by dealing with problems related to food waste decomposition. Methane is one of the greenhouse gases produced when food materials rot and is a significant contributor to global warming.
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The Formation Of Food Cement
According to the Chatham House, a London-based organization providing solutions to climate change, 8 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide is emitted by cement production processes. Considering this, researchers developed a technology that could decrease dependency on concrete-based cement.

They first developed a method to make concrete with fine wood particles subjected to heat compression. It involved three steps; drying, pulverization (crushing) and compression performed using simple compressors and mixers. Then, they decided to use the same procedure with food waste. However, their previous trials made them use plastic to bind the food particles. After several failures, they realized they could adjust the temperature and pressure to intact the food cement.

“The most challenging part was that each type of food waste requires different temperatures and pressure levels,” said Yuya Sakai, associate professor and a researcher at Tokyo University. Other experiments using food materials in construction involved using stuff such as bio-waste ashes and coffee grounds as filler in typical concrete. Researchers claim that they have successfully made ‘food cement‘ with onion and orange peels, tea leaves, Chinese cabbage and lunch-box leftovers. They’ve also added colours, scents and flavours with different spices to make it more appealing. “To be able to eat the material, a person would need to break it into pieces and boil it,” said Sakai. Further, to protect the cement from pests and rodents and make it waterproof, they coated it with Japenese Lacquer. It is a highly prized craft material made from lacquer tree sap and forms a waterproof surface on objects when dried.

The Future Of Food Cement
As far as food wastage and management problems are considered in Japan, the country produces approximately 3.3 million tons of food waste. It generated 5.7 million tons of edible waste in 2019 alone. However, the government is working to reduce the quantity to 2.7 million tons by 2030.
Kota Machida, Sakai’s student, is currently working to make cutlery, cups and furniture out of food cement. “The cement can also be used to construct edible makeshift houses for disasters. For example, if food cannot be delivered to evacuees, they could eat makeshift beds made out of food cement,” said Sakai.
The food cement is biodegradable and can be reused. It can be decomposed or buried when not required.

“Our ultimate hope is that this cement replaces plastic and cement products, which have worse environmental impacts,” said Machida.

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