Each year, over 8.5 million metric tons of eggshells are discarded, most of which end up in landfills. Though often thought of as fragile, eggshells are calcium-rich and naturally UV-resistant. Since 2000, Nature Squared has worked with natural waste materials including recycled eggshells, seashells and feathers to create architectural products. In 2020, Nature Squared’s Chief Innovator, Elaine Yan Ling Ng, introduced CArrelé, a collection of high-performance eggshell-based tiles in various colors and shapes.
Inspired by the use of eggshells in the medical industry, Ng’s innovation prevents the biowaste from accumulating in landfills. She also maximizes the material’s calcium-rich properties for buildings. As an homage to the convergence of science and design, the name CArrelé stems from the French word for tile and the chemical symbol for calcium.
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The tiles recycle organic white eggshells collected from local bakeries and kitchens in the Philippines. These are crushed into fragments with sizes ranging from sand to 3mm. This creates a speckled appearance reminiscent of terrazzo. Once combined with a binding agent, the tiles are shaped into squares, rectangles and triangles of various sizes and left to cure at room temperature.
The composite takes on a variety of colors, depending on the treatment. For earthy, neutral colors, the tiles are “toasted” to produce hues ranging from creams to dark browns. The eggshells absorb dyes well too. Presently, the team has experimented with natural dyes including indigo, chlorophyllin and madder. These are added to the mixture before firing to create rich blue, green, and rose hues.
The CArrelé tiles can be used for a variety of purposes. They are easy to clean and can be used in wet spaces, making them ideal for kitchen backsplashes and bathroom walls. Currently, Nature Squared is also developing floor tiles using the eggshell composite material. Aside from surface materials, elegant accessories can be made from the CArrelé composite. These bespoke minimalist forms include cylindrical stools, paperweights, bookends, candle holders and trays that match the speckled wall tiles.
Innovations like Ng’s allow for a shift in mindset, especially concerning waste. By exploring the possibilities of biowaste in design, the industry can provide affordable and elegant design solutions while creating a positive environmental impact.
Images courtesy of Nature Squared