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Anything but Vegan

Text: Mateja Huff

The effort for sustainability and the search for environmentally friendly alternatives to the status quo of our consumer society are more urgent than ever before. It is all the more important to realise that almost everything is in abundance. These five projects show what you can do with animal remains. At the same time, they question the relationship between humans and animals. This appears to be particularly relevant at a time when the animal is being mass-produced.





Animal slaughter is one of the largest industries in the world and blood is its bulk waste product. With his products Basse Stittgen gives the material a new shape and questions the value that we attach to animals. The objects made from 100 percent cow blood are to confront, create awareness and at the same time reduce waste. Blood tells a thousand stories and every story is full of meaning. However, none of these stories are about blood as waste material. But could blood also serve as an easily available and therefore even more important biomaterial? Basse Stittgen deliberately uses the divergence between the strong symbolic meaning and the material as a waste product and creates a sharp contrast in his objects.





A third of all food is lost or wasted including many eggs that either expire or whose shell is too fragile for transportation. From domestication to industrialisation, the value of chickens and their eggs has decreased. The relationship between humans and animals has changed. In Basse Stittgen’s project How do you like your eggs? the content becomes a container. Thrown away eggs become egg cups and provide information about the extraordinary materiality of an animal product that has become common through mass consumption. In order to counteract this shift in value and to raise awareness of our consumption habits and the waste of eggs, expired proteins and shells are thermoformed in the project. This is how plastic cups are made without additives. As an alternative to conventional plastic products, a completely degradable bioplastic is created.





Kathrine Barbro Bendixen’s lamps show how aesthetic animal entrails can be. In almost cloud-like structures, it gives them a second life and challenges how we evaluate certain materials. Barbro Bendixen’s practice is characterised by an unusual and experimental handling of materials, which she stages in new and unconventional contexts. Her light sculptures made from animal waste products ask questions about sustainability and the handling of animal waste.





In many parts of the world, insects and mealworms in particular have long been considered a sustainable source of protein. Mealworms also have a special property: they can digest polystyrene. The mealworm extracts all the necessary nutrients from the plastic and converts them into a biologically usable mass. During its life cycle, the mealworm larva grows up, pupates, becomes a beetle and ultimately dies. With his Plasticula project, Jannis Kempkens is devoted to these remains, which consist largely of chitin. Once extracted, the chitin can be pressed into a film with the addition of natural acid. In this way, the mealworm can both help to break down polystyrene and at the same time produce a sustainable alternative to plastic. A simple box serves Kempkens as a worm farm, in which each generation has its own department. An easy-to-understand online manual makes it possible for anyone interested to become a worm farmer and to grow their own bioplastic. Kempkens aims for maximal accessibility of the manufacture of sustainable bioplastics so that it is as widely distributed as possible.





The total number of all poultry eggs laid (this includes, for example, quail or ostrich eggs) is 1.4 trillion annually. From this amount, approximately 1.5 million tons of more or less unused egg membrane are created. In the industrial context, the eggshells and membranes are used for cement production, but only the calcium carbonate (chalk) of the eggshell is actually used. The glycoprotein egg membranes simply burn. In order to save the valuable membranes, Fabian Hütter developed a process that makes it possible to separate the thin cuticles from the egg shells. The egg membrane encloses the protein and protects it from microorganisms, so reuse as food packaging seemed more than conclusive to Hütter. With the help of sodium hydroxide, the protein chains can be dissolved and sprayed directly onto vegetables as liquid spray packaging. When the liquid dries, it forms a protective film that makes conventional plastic packaging superfluous. In addition, a compostable bioplastic can be produced by compression molding the egg membrane. This creates a transparent material that is an optimal alternative to fossil-based plastics.


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