In an age of huge multinational waste management companies dominating the landscape, there is still room for an individual armed with ingenuity and cunning to show the way. Angus Carnie is one such man.
“I had this theory some time ago that you could build a house made entirely from waste,” he says. “People told me ‘you can’t do that’, so I thought I’ll just bloody well do it, and show it’s possible.” When Carnie says “entirely”, he really means it – from the mixed plastic waste walls and floors to the paint made from recycled toner powder.
The result is a home that looks like a traditional Scottish log cabin, built on land near Carnoustie, east Scotland. The idea behind the construction is to showcase the range of materials that can be recycled and to aid social causes. Carnie intends to build more homes and donate them to charities for the homeless.
Sourcing materials was quite a job, and Carnie admits to driving tradesmen “bonkers” by being highly particular over what could be used.
“The biggest problem is that you can’t just nip down to Jewsons and buy stuff. You need to find it, make it from material that goes to landfill or gets burned. For instance, the internal walls and floors are made of plastic waste from MacDonald’s. They’re waterproof, which is ideal for the bathroom. The material is also lighter than traditional walls but just as strong.
“The worktops are made out of plastic bedsheets that come from hospitals – they usually all get incinerated. It costs the NHS a fortune to deal with that. I’m sure they could find lots of better uses for the money.”
The range of materials is impressive, and include waste printer bottles used for super-efficient insulation, damaged pallets for fencing and damaged confidential waste bins for kitchen units. There are jam jar and vodka bottle light fittings, whisky barrel furniture and an electrical cable reel coffee table. Not to mention picture frames from waste tyres and circuit boards fashioned into coasters.
In all, the materials used cost just £5,000, with much of it being found for free. After taking “a long time to plan”, building took just six months, and the whole project cost £40,000.
The house is also fully ‘off-grid’ and energy self-sufficient, through the use of wind and solar power as well as a wood burner. Water comes from rain harvesting and a filter system.
“There were some difficulties on the way,” admits Carnie. “The funniest thing to my mind was the toilet. I ended up speaking to a Swedish company because they’ve got frozen areas [of the country] with no usable water. I didn’t want any chemical toilets, the design works as normal and does some clever things quietly and efficiently.”
Carnie has many years’ experience in recycling, and lays claim to inventing the process of recycling waste toner powder. His primary job is in the secure shredding bins business, but helping people going through difficult periods of their lives is also something of a personal mission.
“It’s a case of ‘there, for the grace of God, go I’ when you see homeless people,” he says. “I had a brain tumour a number of years ago. I survived, but I could have ended up with no job, nothing. It makes you think about other people a bit more.”
The Waste House, Brighton
The UK’s first house made from waste was built by the University of Brighton and completed in 2014. It was constructed by apprentices, students and volunteers, and made from materials including 20,000 toothbrushes, 4,000 DVD cases, 2,000 floppy discs, 2,000 used carpet tiles and two tonnes of jeans.
The Waste House was designed by architect and lecturer Duncan Baker-Brown. The design was inspired by Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud’s sustainable home built in 2008, which Baker-Brown collaborated on. In 2015, Waste House Brighton was shortlisted for the Royal Institute of British Architects’ Stephen Lawrence Prize.
waste house brighton