Wood alternative Pyrus is made from kombucha brewing waste

Pyrus closeup 2

The guitar picks and jewellery bought by the corporate Symmetry appear to be they’re made of unique woods. You may spot mahogany or purpleheart, that are sourced from rainforests, however no timber have been reduce all the way down to make this stuff. As an alternative they arrive from a fabric known as Pyrus, a wooden alternative made from waste from kombucha brewing, and the winner of this 12 months’s nationwide James Dyson Award.

Gabe Tavas, a sustainable design pupil on the College of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, started engaged on Pyrus after he noticed different designers use kombucha cellulose—a slimy sheet of micro organism cellulose that grows on prime of kombucha because it brews, and which is often thrown out or composted—to make gadgets like jackets. Tavas all the time knew he wished to design merchandise with out utilizing petroleum and poisonous supplies whereas having a minimal influence on the planet.

He turned fascinated by the fabric, searching for different methods it may very well be used. “I began doing extra analysis into issues like deforestation, after which it hit me that wooden is largely composed of cellulose,” he says. “Bushes use cellulose to create their primary constructions, so what if we acquired that ingredient from micro organism as an alternative?”

Tavas selected to deal with replicating unique woods as a result of many are endangered. To woodworkers, unique woods are a extremely wanted materials. Lumber like Brazilian rosewood, which grows within the Amazon, and mahogany, which grows in tropical forests throughout South America and the Caribbean, are resilient hardwoods that are available stunning, deep colours. However the demand for these woods has led to large rainforest deforestation. Unique woods can be poisonous to woodworkers; the mud and oils which can be uncovered when reducing and sanding this lumber can be harmful to people’s health.


Tavas first made his kombucha-waste wooden alternative in his dorm, rising the cellulose himself. Then he began working with The Plant, a group of meals companies engaged on methods to develop into round. There, an organization known as KombuchAid turned “enthusiastic” about his mission, he says, and started supplying the micro organism cellulose—250 kilos to today, and nonetheless going.

To make Pyrus, Tavas and his staff mix that cellulose and pour it right into a mould, including in agar, an algae-based gel, as a binder. They dehydrate the fabric after which put that hardened sheet of cellulose underneath a mechanical press to flatten it clean. The consequence is a sheet of artificial wooden that may be sanded and reduce identical to wooden from a tree, and which might biodegrade (Tavas says the fabric can begin to decompose after being disregarded within the rain, however he hopes to do extra testing on precisely how lengthy it takes to biodegrade sooner or later).

Another wooden options upcycle sawdust, however that also requires timber to be reduce down. Pyrus, then again, “is nice from an effectivity perspective in lowering waste from lumber reducing,” Tavas says, “however significantly for these endangered woods. Making an attempt to maintain as lots of these [trees] standing as potential . . . is supreme, significantly since local weather change is solely escalating.”

For now, Tavas is utilizing Pyrus to make small gadgets like guitar picks and jewellery. Sooner or later, he hopes to 3D print the micro organism cellulose into larger objects that might be troublesome to make out of a sheet of the fabric.