WSU Engineering and Architecture Students Create Trash Insulation

As originally featured in the Daily Evergreen: Thursday, September 24, 2015
By Kelsey Bowers

With cold months approaching and energy’s high cost, it may be a struggle this winter to keep homes warm as snow begins to fall. Undergraduate students at WSU have recently been sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency to develop the idea of “TrashWalls;” literally, walls made of trash.

Nathan Conklin, a mechanical engineering student working on the project team, said the walls are made to insulate and will allow a room to retain heat efficiently. “Some people spend up to 40 percent of their monthly income on heating their houses,” Conklin said. “We need to start being greener as a society, and this is a way to save energy and money.”

The team consists not only of mechanical engineering students, but civil engineering and architecture students as well.
One of the professors helping with the project, Taiji Miyasaka, associate professor and architecture program head at the School of Design and Construction, said that the architecture aspect of developing TrashWalls is to make the wall visually pleasing while functioning capably.

“It has to be appealing, the design,” Miyasaka said. “It also shouldn’t take a long time to assemble.” Miyasaka indicated that it is also important to minimize waste, which is a common issue in construction. “Architecture is very interested in sustainability, and often, a lot of material is wasted,” Miyasaka said.

Jodie Bowe, another mechanical engineering student on the project, said herself and the rest of the team were trying to come up with a way to connect the walls. “Right now, we’re really trying to come up with a good connector,” Bowe said. “We’re thinking about using wood connectors.”

Bowe also said the team needs material in order to develop their project. Part of what makes the walls affordable is the fact that they’re made out of recycled products. “Shredded paper is a material, plastic bags, aluminum cans, and coke bottles,” Bowe said.

The TrashWalls group is currently working with the CUB to get a collection bin. However, until that happens, the team asks that people be diligent about which bins they throw their waste in. “People don’t take the time to sort stuff,” Bowe said. “Even putting trash in the correct bins helps.” The recycled product is essentially contaminated when mixed with non-recyclable trash, Bowe said.

Professor Bob Richards, the mechanical engineering instructor involved in the project said that the EPA’s sponsorship is tentatively planned to start Nov. 1, which will grant the project team $15,000 to advance their idea. The students will be attending a contest to compete with other students developing environmentally friendly products.

Backed by the EPA, the event will be held in Washington D.C. The date of the event has not yet been determined. To contribute usable materials to the team, they ask that you be mindful of separating your disposables into the correct bins, and contact them via email if you have materials on hand that you would like to supply.