From stainless steel straws to compostable food containers, the reusability movement is increasing in popularity at a time when recycling infrastructure is in crisis.

Industrial designer Garrett Benisch joined Boston Public Radio on Monday to speak about how we can recreate everyday objects using materials we normally disregard as waste. Bensich took the average ink pen, which is made from multiple petroleum products, and was able to redesign it from biosolids.

“Biosolids are our sewage digested at a resource recovery facility,” Benisch said. “New York produces 1.3 billion gallons of sewage, and little microorganisms eat our sewage and create methane, just like we do in our stomach. That solid residue from that process is biosolids.”

But right now, 2.8 million pounds of biosolids are getting landfilled everyday, just in New York alone, Benisch said. Instead of just squandering biosolids, Bensich decided to utilize the abundant material by feeding it to bacteria, which then creates a bioplastic. Bensich then used these bioplastics to create a pen, called the Sum Waste pen.

“People jot notes down on their hands, they chew on their pens, they hold their hair up with it, so I like to call this a gateway product,” he said. “The idea is that as you get used to this, you can then get used to maybe a bowl of soup made out of something like this, or a fork.”

At the moment, the Sum Waste pen isn’t being mass produced, but Benisch is hopeful for its future.

“It’s about policy creating an infrastructure for it,” he said. “This is totally feasible, it’s just about getting the facilities built and getting everybody excited about it.”

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Benisch is an industrial design graduate from the Pratt Institute. He is the creator of the Sum Waste pen and other projects intersecting art, sustainability and activism.





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