‘As raw material seaweed is versatile’


Seaweed as a raw material. Industrial designer Marjanne Cuypers, fell in love with it long ago. She uses it in her start-up BlueBlocks to manufacture biomaterials and circular products that make the construction industry (interior and exterior) more sustainable. She is fellow member and one of the participants of the newly opened exhibition Weed in Muzee Scheveningen.

Marjanne discovered seaweed a few years ago, in her search to biobased material. ‘As an industrial designer, I have always been aware of what materials do and how you can process them. Gradually I felt the responsibility to work with materials and raw materials that are not exhausting or harmful to the environment. That's how seaweed came my way. Initially as a by-product of food. There, especially the proteins are used. So what do you do with the rest? That's taking on a life of its own. Now everything we do is about seaweed.’

Characteristics of seaweed

‘Seaweed has a few characteristics why we can keep our materials very purely’, she proceeds. ‘It reacts differently than if you use plants in your products that have grown on land. Seaweed is useful to manufacture materials that are very tough, without adding intense resins or glues.’  The blocks Marjanne designs you can use as a more natural alternative for plasterboard, wall finish, decoration or even fronts for kitchendoors.

When asked why it is not yet as well known as a building material, she answers: 'We are still in development, so the majority of our products are not yet on the market. Before you can use it as a building material, it must meet a number of requirements and that development also takes time, so we have not really brought this out yet. Nevertheless, we already notice that there is a lot of interest, because the construction industry is also becoming more sustainable. Interior builders and product developers are also increasingly looking for alternative materials.’

Locally cultivated

Marjanne always works with brown algae. She thinks other algae are more suitable for food. 'In the beginning, we also worked with other algae. Because they cannot be grown in our region, they eventually lost weight, while they also functioned well. Brown algae can be grown well on the open sea. That is what we want to go along with and also see a future in. That it becomes local, and you can operate on a large scale.'

Nice fact: she used in her products the seaweed that grew in the pilot Wier&Wind on the Offshore Test Site in Scheveningen. This was the first offshore cultivated seaweed in the North Sea. ‘I even helped seeding it’, she says. ‘Very exiting! I was so happy with it. It really worked out great in our materials.’ You can find BlueBlocks in Blue City in Rotterdam. Or you can visit Muzee Scheveningen, were you can touch the building blocks she manufactured with weed. The exposition Weed will be there until the 16th of June.