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Think again before you throw away your old toothbrush. Almost 20,000 used toothbrushes and other waste have been used to build a house in Brighton, UK. Three months in production at City College workshop and 12 months on site, the Brighton Waste House is on campus at the Faculty of Arts Grand Parade and has been built to raise awareness of sustainability.

Gatwick Airport supplied the 20,000 toothbrushes, which is equal to how many business and first-class passengers use over just a couple of days. In addition to these old toothbrushes, 4000 DVDs, 2,000 floppy discs, 2000 used carpet tiles, 20 liters of second-hand paint, 2 tonnes of waste denim jean legs/arms, and other waste have been used to build this eco-friendly house. It is the first permanent building in the UK to be constructed from waste, surplus material and discarded plastic gathered from the construction industry. The idea of the project is to test the performance of these undervalued resources over the next few years and inspire a different approach to waste and sustainability by hosting green-themed events.

The architect behind the project and senior lecturer at Brighton University, Duncan Baker-Brown has shared his insights about the project and sustainability. He noted that: “For every five homes built in UK another homes’ worth of waste and surplus material goes to landfill. This was an initial inspiration for the project, which is an exaggerated way to make our point that you have to be creative with the material given to you, rather than having an endless supply of materials”.

Sourcing the material was a difficult part of the project. Cat Fletcher of Freegle sourced most of the material that constitutes the Waste House. Cat was especially keen to encourage everyone involved in the project to use waste from other sectors as well as construction waste. The project was delayed for six weeks because the team struggled to find second-hand ply. “We need a network of second-hand DYI materials in Great Britain. We need to know what material is out there so we could use it. We used materials that have great stories behind them. For example, we used 50-year old South Korean ship container’s materials in our project”, noted Duncan.

It took 2507 days for students, apprentices and volunteers to build the house. National building contractors Mears Group ran the Waste House construction site on a day to day basis. David Pendegrass of Mears Group was the actual site agent who had to work with the apprentices and 300 students from City College. Carpentry students constructed the waste timber and ply columns as well as beams for three months in their amazing 3 storey high works shops. These were then taken to the site and assembled. Duncan commented: “The project is a center for collaborative learning. By replicating  collective working model we were able to collect different ideas on how to build the house which made the project very successful.”

Brighton Waste House is an open design research studio for everyone who is interested in sustainable design workshops and an inspiration for a sustainable approach to consumption.

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