Innovation That Matters

Biodegradable carpet

New ‘growth carpet’ uses human waste to fertilize desolate land


Researchers in Mexico seek funding for an award-winning biodegradable ‘carpet’ that uses human waste to rejuvenate infertile soil in and around refugee camps.

RISE is a product specifically designed for use in non-fertile humanitarian crisis regions. It relies solely on human urine to provide the irrigation and nutrients required to grow crops. Human urine contains significant levels of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium, that are favorable for plant growth. So the problem of human waste in areas where there is dense dwelling and limited facilities, can now be turned into an opportunity to rejuvenate desecrated lands and produce – often much needed – new sources of food.

RISE looks like a plastic mesh, but it is made from 100 percent biodegradable materials. Inside are local seeds and liquid filters. RISE can be laid out, just like a carpet, around a camp or other communal dwelling. The idea is that each family could be given their own ‘smart carpet’ to encourage the tender of their own crops, and ultimately to trade those crops with each other and with the locals outside of the refugee camps as well.

The project was designed by three industrial design students from the Instituto Tecnologico de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey in Puebla, Mexico: Dominik Bini, José Luis Galindo and Denisse Ojeda. Having won at the recent RSA Student Design Awards, they now hope to find funding for further research and eventually bring the product to mass production.

We have already seen lots of smart but simple innovations designed to help people in crisis zones. Among these, several designs for shelters such as temporary yurts and the flat pack emergency home. What other innovations have you seen that could help people in emergency shelters and camps?



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