Reframing the Japanese knotweed ‘problem’

It’s not every day we’re contacted by an award-winning Royal College of Art MA textiles student who has chosen Japanese knotweed as the subject material for their final year project - particularly someone who shares our interest in positively harnessing the power of knotweed.

Marina Belintani, a Brazilian Italian designer working across the discipline of bio-design and materials, was keen to explore the value of Japanese knotweed as a material in its own right. Specifically, she wanted to demonstrate how something that is considered waste in one industry can be used as raw material for another.

Our MD Nic Seal was delighted to assist Marina with background information on knotweed, particularly in light of our own research exploring how Japanese knotweed waste can be transformed into biochar, a soil amendment that locks carbon away for hundreds or even thousands of years.

Focusing on circular making, or looking at how we create, consume, recycle and reuse, Marina studied the different elements of the knotweed plant and how they can be re-purposed as a material. She made paper, charcoal and fibres from the knotweed rhizome and canes, and dyed natural fabrics using pigment extracted from every element of the plant. She also demonstrated how bioplastic from the peduncle, stem and leaf can be used as a coating on glass, and various woven and non-woven fabrics.

Marina said, “As a designer, I strongly believe in the development of a circular economy that moves away from mass wastage towards a more resilient and sufficient way of consuming. By finding new ways to re-use waste products, it’s possible to establish a more coherent relationship with the planet and live harmoniously within the bounds of the planet’s resources.

“Japanese knotweed is considered to be one of the world’s most problematic plants, yet I’ve proven that it has huge value as a raw material for a range of industries, promoting manufacturing systems that are more connected and circular.”

You can find out more about Marina’s project here.

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