Waste Not Want Not: Recycled Home Accessories with Shell Homage

Changing the perception of waste by making it aesthetically pleasing, this award-winning brand makes furniture out of eggshells.

By Karim Abdullatif

02/10/2022
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Breaking down environmental talk into tiny, tangible and actionable pieces is usually more fruitful than any other approach, even if they’re as tiny as a nutshell. Shell Homage, a globally acclaimed sustainable brand founded by product and graphic designer Rania Elkalla, has been using food waste like egg and nut shells to create a sustainable material suitable for interior, lighting, furniture and jewellery designs, as well as 3D printing.

“It started more than 10 years ago when I was studying but inspiration came from home. I’ve always loved exploring surfaces and take in their textures whether it’s objects or food,” Elkalla tells #SceneHome. Elkalla has received a plethora of awards for her sustainable work. She moved to Germany after getting her Bachelor’s, where she linked product design with graphic design and branding as an integrated designer, which led to her Master’s from the Technical University of Berlin.

“We would go for nuts with intact shells and throw them away, but it felt like a waste because I thought I could make something out of them. The same applied to eggshells, they feel brittle and fragile but they’re actually strong and waterproof,” she says. “People are usually surprised when they learn that our products are made from food waste. They would think that it’s marble but it would be too light and then we would play a brief guessing game.”

Elkalla’s dreamy products get their technicolour finish from the natural hues of food ingredients that go into the mix. Her fascination with surfaces meant that she would ensure that her products vary from rough to smooth, and opaque to transparent, according to their application. “The idea is to test different techniques on plant-based binding materials and food waste,” Elkalla explains. “Each piece is handcrafted to get its unique combination of colour and pattern.”

The designer is keen on prolonging the lifespan of these wasted materials, such as by ensuring that the end product is free of toxins. “By the time you’re done with the product you can simply dip it into the garden and it wouldn’t be harmful,” she adds. “The products are 100% compostable.” Which also makes them ideal for when you eventually want to declutter, as you may imagine.

“I feel like material developments weren’t communicated well by material engineers,” Elkalla continues. “By approaching the design field, which is flexible, I believed that this new material would bridge the gap between the two disciplines.”

With an eye set on expanding in fields such as toys, tableware and consumable goods, Elkalla’s approach is to keep developing these materials with an aspiration to educate people and possibly inspire them to follow suit. Another way she’s doing that is through teaching sustainable design at the German International University, where she allowed students to experiment with orange and banana peels. As for her business, the plan is to introduce collection points for people to deposit their shells and have their waste turned into something useful. Slowly crafting towards a more sustainable future, one eggshell at a time.

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