THE INTERCONNECTED BENEFITS OF CREATING FROM SEWER
Dutch designers at Studio Nienke Hoogvliet have created a range of products made from toilet paper reclaimed in fine sieves from the toilets of the Netherlands. One hundred and eighty trees worth of toilet paper is flushed down the toilets in the Netherlands each year so, the Dutch designers came with a revolutionary idea to create useful products from sewer; not an idea that settles properly in your head. But it’s all for the greater good.
Studio Nienke Hoogvliet is a textile, product and concept design studio based in Delft, the Netherlands. Founder Nienke Hoogvliet tries to raise awareness for certain issues through her designs. Most of her projects have something to do with vulnerability: in human, society or nature. She has a special interest in natural materials and production processes. Hoogvliet's previous project 'SEA ME', in which she created yarn from sea algae, was exhibited alongside the Watershatten.
The Dutch Water Authorities are working on recovering valuable energy and raw materials from wastewater and one of those raw materials is used toilet paper. Recently the Water Authorities Aa & Maas and Hoogheemraadschap Hollands Noorderkwartier installed fine sieves with which they can reclaim used toilet paper (cellulose). To celebrate the recovery of this material, they invited Studio Nienke Hoogvliet to design a range of products. Hundreds of tons of toilet paper is flushed down the toilets of the Netherlands every day and before the installation of the fine sieve. Using this cellulose again means that fewer trees are cut down and reduces the amount of energy required in the water cleaning process.
Studio Nienke Hoogvliet made a collection of objects consisting of a large table, lighting, and decorative bowls to show how this material can be integrated into our homes. The goal of the project is to create a positive association with this material. The cleaned pulp was made into unique, handmade products and combined with brass to show the great potential value in something from the sewers.
The collection was exhibited during Dutch Design Week 2016. Besides cellulose, the Water Authorities can also reclaim energy, phosphates and other materials from wastewater. To show all the possibilities, the table created by Studio Nienke Hoogvliet consists of eight drawers, with every drawer highlighting a material for the visitors.
Now, while this is a totally welcomed idea with interconnected benefits addressing reduction in land pollution and increase in renewable energy sources a well as safe and healthy living environments; there is danger in products from reclaimed toilet paper.
From an environmental perspective, papers with high recycled content are obviously the way to go. Unfortunately, these types of paper generally contain BPA, which is widely used in the paper made for the thermal printers that produce sales receipts (which are then recycled and turned into other paper). The ink in newspaper (which is often recycled) is another source of BPA.
BPA, as you may know, is an endocrine disruptor, and animal studies link it to cancer. One epidemiological study shows that adults with higher levels of BPA in their urine have increased rates of various metabolic disorders (including diabetes and cardiovascular disease). It’s impossible to know what the actual health implications of using products from reclaimed toilet paper are or even coming in contact with such. While it is helpful to the environment, is it helpful to the individual?