Most construction materials used today are not recyclable, having caused each European to generate an average of 1.87 tons of construction waste every year. That amounts to one-third of all waste produced in the region, and the industry's global waste output will reach 2.2 billion tons a year by 2025 if no action is taken. The planet is heavily feeling the effects, especially when it comes to wood-based materials that add the problem of deforestation into the mix.
Emerging Barcelona-based firm Honext has come up with a solution after years of extensive research: a revolutionary waste reclaiming process that turns cellulose residue into a fully recyclable, construction-ready material.
Honext goes straight to the source of paper waste, partnering with paper mills and waste disposal facilities to collect cellulose debris right where it is generated and produce a sustainable alternative to traditional building materials.
Until now paper could only be recycled up to a certain point. After a few reuse cycles, the remaining cellulose fibers are too short to be bound together by conventional means, destined to end up in a landfill or be burnt. It is estimated that 7 million tons of such waste are produced globally every year.
Honext boards are made of unusable paper sludge and cardboard waste, leveraging a unique mix of enzymes, non-toxic additives, as well as heat and pressure to create the only material of its kind that avoids the use of non-recyclable binding resins. And, unlike similar materials, it does not emit any harmful particles. It is completely safe.
Honext was born to build emissions-free, healthy environments that have a positive impact on their inhabitants and the environment as a whole. All without making any compromises in terms of properties.
The boards can be used for interior partitioning or cladding and have similar properties to the traditional materials used for such applications. Honext even provides improvements over traditional alternatives beyond sustainability and healthiness. The material is lighter, more flexible and has greater sound absorption capabilities than similar materials like drywall or MDF.
The sleepy Catalan town of Vacarisses is home to Honext’s pilot plant. Built right next to the town’s landfill, the factory serves as a fully operational proof of concept of the company’s circular approach to production and distribution. In it, Honext leverages advanced proprietary technology to produce its boards with zero environmental impact. The gas and electricity come from the digestion of the town's waste, while water is permanently reused in a closed circuit. Honext process is carbon-neutral and can be endlessly replicated at no cost to the planet.
Once the material has reached the end of its life, it is fed back into the production pipeline to create a whole new set of boards. And it is not only the material itself that can be recycled. The company's cutting-edge process allows for the removal of any common coating or finish applied by the constructor.
Honext combines this circular approach to production with a local-first distribution model that eliminates the need for the long-distance transport of the final product. The company’s goal is to build a distributed global network in which each of its partners has the capability to produce Honext boards directly within their premises.
The company sees itself as a research-first provider of technological solutions for the management of cellulose waste. As such, Honext focuses its circular economy DNA on establishing partnerships that can secure the path towards a more sustainable future.
Honext is currently reaching out to world-leading architects and designers to explore ways in which its boards can be used to build healthier and more sustainable environments that meet the needs of both the industry and the end-user. All through open debate, critical thinking and a commitment to constant improvement.
We analyse, sort and classify the waste based on its composition to achieve a standard product. Depending on its quality, we use 50−75% paper sludge and 25−50% post-consumer cardboard waste. Thanks to our research, adding certain enzymes into our process
allows us to generate stronger bindings between cellulose fibres with no need for resins. We mix in safe, non-toxic additives with the upcycled cellulose fibres. We then compress and shape the material into a wet board. We feed the wet board through a drying tunnel. The remaining water is evaporated through high airflow and temperature.
Cellulose leftover from the paper industry and cardboard waste.
Firma, Alga Studio, Marta Riera Boada