When the Covid-19 pandemic struck, Taiwanese architect and engineer Arthur Huang wanted to do something to help. As the construction industry across the world is crippled, Putting many of his projects on hold, Huang focused on solving the urgent need for medical supplies and hospital space.
With the pandemic affecting shipments of conventional materials, Huang has found an alternative that never fails. “We built medical parts, medical components and a modular medical service system from local waste,” he says.
The result is the Modular Adaptable Convertible (MAC) service – the world’s first hospital service built from recycled materials, according to Miniwiz. It was designed by the company in partnership with Fu Jen Catholic University Hospital in Taipei and could start admitting patients as early as June.
The walls of the MAC room are clad in panels made from 90% recycled aluminum and recycled polyester insulation. Cabinet handles and coat hooks are made from recycled medical waste such as PPE.
A portable version can be built from scratch in 24 hours, Huang says, allowing it to be transported to places with high medical needs.
“I think that [the] the pandemic is forcing us to become very innovative in finding solutions to adapt to the current situation, ”he said.
A man’s mission to make a treasure with garbage
Drawing inspiration from ancient Rome
Huang’s interest in reusing waste has its roots in antiquity. While studying archeology in Rome in 1999, he noticed something that would send him on a lifelong mission to revolutionize recycling: Many of the city’s older buildings were partly made from waste.
“A lot of foundations, aqueducts and infrastructure built in Rome are actually made from cement… from single-use packaging,” Huang explains. The idea of taking the waste and reusing it for construction will form the basis of his work for the next 20 years.
Huang a has worked on developing ways to turn post-consumer waste, like plastic bottles, as well as post-construction and post-agricultural waste, into materials that have now been used in buildings, restaurants and stores in around the world, from Milan to Shanghai.
One material that can be used for ceiling panels is made from rice husk waste mixed with recycled DVDs and LED lenses. Another, made from recycled plastic, electronic waste and automotive waste, is used to make a weatherproof shading system for buildings.
The Nike Kicks Lounge store in Taipei is full of such innovations. A giant air bubble made from recycled factory waste hangs from the ceiling, serving as both an insulator against the sun and a lighting structure. Many fixtures, including the cash register counter, were made from ReGrind, a Miniwiz material developed from crushed Nike shoe soles and other junk. The store’s chairs are made from recycled shoes from famous Taiwanese athletes.
“Democratize” zero waste technology
Along with the development of new materials, Huang seeks ways to address the environmental challenges posed by the global recycling industry.
The business of shipping recycling around the world for processing is a big part of the problem, says Huang, as it increases the risk of material contamination, making recycling difficult. It also has a larger carbon footprint than local recycling.
To help “democratize” its zero waste technology, Miniwiz has shifted its mission to recycling more accessible to communities around the world to help avoid the practice of exporting waste.
Inspired by the Disney movie Wall-E, about a tiny robot capable of detecting different types of trash in a dystopian world covered in landfills, Huang and his team set out to design a portable solar-powered recycling machine that could be taken anywhere. plastic waste is a growing problem. The Trashpresso was born.
The Trashpresso machine can melt and compress post-consumer plastic, such as bottle caps, into new plastic products.
The latest version comes with an AI recycling system which can detect different types of plastic, which the machine can crush and melt into new products such as containers or tiles.
Miniwiz claims that its Trashpressos have recycled more than 203,000 water bottles in 10 cities around the world. The aim is to develop a fully automated version and extend this system to make local recycling facilities easily accessible to communities around the world.
“We don’t need to create new things,” said Huang. “We just have to use our ingenuity, our innovations, our good hearts and our good brains to transform these existing materials into the next generation of products and buildings to power our economy.”