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Sheffield students make headlines with Jesmonite!

A group of innovative students made headlines after launching a business making Jesmonite plant pots from plastic and glass found in rivers. Dominic Lewis, Oscar Keenan, Max Sudbury and Tommy Linnett, students at Sheffield Hallam University, discovered Jesmonite in February after searching online for eco-friendly concrete – and their company was born. Flod – a word meaning river in Middle English and Swedish – sold its first batch of 20 pots in around 37 minutes !

Dominic says: “We wanted to create an environmentally friendly product as part of our work placement year, and we wanted to start with an eco-friendly alternative to concrete. “We’d never heard of it before, but we found Jesmonite mentioned in an article and on the Jesmonite website after Googling for such a product. As it contains no volatile organic compounds, it was perfect. “We ordered 5kg to start with, watched some video tutorials on how to use it and we were ready. “So we started using packets of fish cakes as temporary molds.”

The team quickly adopted Jesmonite and immediately began experimenting. They create their plant pots using a plastic drip tray made from high-density polyethylene found in bottle caps and milk cartons collected in the river, and combine it with a pot made from a mixture of Jesmonite and glass. After testing numerous ratios, they found the best combination of 60% Jesmonite and 40% glass to give the best finish, so that the glass is visible. They also felt that AC730 was the best with its natural concrete-like color. Oscar adds, “Our house doesn’t look like your average student house anymore, we have a lot of Jesmonite boxes and broken glass. “But we were able to start manufacturing, the guest room was turned into a workshop and we also worked in the back garden. “We were able to use it without worry thanks to its ecological qualities and the fact that it doesn’t require any special equipment. “We’re also very happy to be able to help clean up the environment and reuse this waste.” Dominic, Max and Oscar are about to enter their third year of product design, and Tommy is studying marketing.

This is a first for the Flod team, and not the norm at the university. In product design studies, students are accustomed to imagining the concept, researching and presenting the idea, until it is manufactured, but for this project, they wanted to go one step further. They now head to the river to collect the plastic and glass with the Don Catchment Rivers Trust charity, which receives 5% of the profits from the sale of each plant pot. They are also in contact with the River Stewardship Company and the Canal and Rivers Trust, who will help them obtain the products they need to meet the demand for their product. Dominic added: “We want to carry on as long as we can. “Everyone has been so supportive, our teachers have been so helpful and we’ve spoken to a number of charities. “We intend to do different things with jesmonite – we’re looking at different colors and pigments and what else we could do. “It’s getting more and more interesting, every day the more people find out about the project and the more ideas we come up with.”

You can read about how the team made headlines on the BBC and the Sheffield Star.

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