A group of innovative students have been hitting the headlines after launching a business making Jesmonite plant pots using plastic and glass found in rivers. Sheffield Hallam University students Dominic Lewis, Oscar Keenan, Max Sudbury, and Tommy Linnett only discovered Jesmonite in February after searching online for an eco-friendly concrete – and their business was born. Flod – a word which means river in Middle English and Swedish – sold out of their first batch of 20 pots in around 37 minutes. Dominic said: “We wanted to create an eco-friendly product as part of our Enterprise Placement Year and we wanted to start with an eco-friendly concrete alternative. “We hadn’t heard of it before but we found Jesmonite mentioned in an article and the Jesmonite website after Googling for such a product. Because it contains no volatile organic compounds it was perfect. “We ordered 5kg to start with and watched video tutorials on how to use it and we were off. “It was lockdown when we started so we couldn’t access the University facilities, so we started using fish cake packets as temporary moulds.”
The team picked up Jesmonite quickly and immediately began to experiment. They create their plant pots using a plastic drip tray made from high-density polyethylene found in bottle caps and milk cartons collected from the river and combine it with a pot made from a mixture of Jesmonite and glass. After lots of testing of ratios, they came up with the best combination of 60% Jesmonite, 40% glass to give the best finish so glass can be seen. They also believe AC730 proved best with it’s natural colour looking like concrete. Oscar added: “Our house doesn’t look like your average university student house now, we have lots of boxes of Jesmonite and broken glass. “But we were able to just start making, the spare bedroom was converted into a workshop and we’ve been working in the back garden too. “We could use it without worrying because of its eco-friendly credentials and it doesn’t need any specific equipment. “We’re also really pleased to be able to help clean up the environment and reuse these waste products.” Dominic, Max and Oscar are about to go into their third year of product design and Tommy is studying marketing.
This is a first for the Flod team and not the norm for the university. Studying product design, students usually come up with the concept, do research and pitch the idea, getting it to the point where it would then be made – but for this project they wanted to take it further. They now go down to the river to collect plastic and glass with the Don Catchment Rivers Trust charity, which gets 5% of the profits from the sale of each plant pot. They’re also in touch with the River Stewardship Company and Canal and Rivers Trust who will help them get the products they need to meet demand for their product. Dominic added: “We want to keep it going as much as we can. “Everyone has been really supportive, our lecturers have been really helpful and we’ve spoken to quite a few charities now. “We plan to do some different things with the Jesmonite – we’re looking into the different colours and pigments and what else we could make too. “It is getting more and more interesting, every day, the more people that find out and the more ideas we have.”
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