We’re always looking to other industries to learn what’s going on there in terms of business megatrends. This time, we report on a startup in Brittany that approaches recycling with a very strong regional focus.
Shellfish usually arrive on the plate in their shells. In the case of oysters, this presents many restaurants with particular waste management challenges. It is estimated that about 250,000 tons of shells have to be thrown away each year in France.
Morgan Guyader hails from Brittany, which boasts a long coastline with the Atlantic Ocean. So, it was no wonder that he got to know the oyster farms there through vacation jobs and became involved with the shell problem during the Covid Lockdown, now as a graduate designer.
In 2020, together with his school friend Hugo Kermarrec, now a specialist in sales, he founded Malàkio, a company which turns the shells into a new material called “Istrenn,“ from which the company develops small accessories for the home or parts for furniture.
60% of Istrenn is cleaned and crushed shells, other ingredients are stone powder and resin.
The production process is low-tech: the raw mass is poured into a mold and hardens without heat or pressure. This is followed by polishing of the surface. Depending on how large the shell pieces were as starting materials, they are visible as decorative elements in the artificial stone that has now been created.
The process is known from terrazzo and numerous other materials.
The two founders try to keep the ecological footprint of their product as low as possible. Thus, the shells are processed near the coast, where they were also collected.
They want to maintain this principle and thus build a network of production sites along Europe’s coasts.
They are currently making attempts to change the appearance of Istrenn, for example by adding color. They are also experimenting with glass as an aggregate to give the new shell stone a shine.
(08.11.2023, USA: 11.08.2023)