People looking at the new applications at the event

New applications for sand produced by Ash2Phos

After more than a year and a half of collaboration, the Swedish design studio Form Us With Love recently unveiled several potential applications for sand produced by the Ash2Phos process. It’s a project unique for EasyMining in many ways but critical for the mission to develop circular solutions.

21 Jan 2024

In early September, the Form Us With Love office in Stockholm’s Kungsholmen neighbourhood was packed for a private event. It was the first official look at the prospective uses the design firm had come up with for the red silica sand created by Ash2Phos. Guests learned about and perused a variety of prototype products, including a wooden plank plied with samples of red paint, example blocks of red cement, and more.

The collaboration has been a new experience for EasyMining. The company’s partnerships and collaborations typically focus on the nutrients its technologies recover, such as phosphorus and nitrogen, as well as applications more immediate in the value chain.

But as completion draws nearer for the first industrial-scale Ash2Phos plant at the Schkopau Chemical Park in central Germany, EasyMining wants to demonstrate that even secondary reclaimed resources have major potential in the circular economy.

–This project shows that collaboration between recyclers and designers is a powerful way to find new applications, says Anders Kihl, Ragn-Sell's Head of Research and Development.

A natural resource that’s almost depleted

Developed primarily as a circular solution for phosphorus in fertilisers and feed, Ash2Phos is a method for processing incinerated sewage sludge. It recovers the valuable nutrient essential for growing food, which otherwise would have been lost, and puts it back into circulation. Yet the Ash2Phos process recovers a lot of other material as well.

– One of the things that we get, and the material produced in the largest volume, is the sand. It’s something that’s not critical like phosphorus, but it’s getting there, says Sara Stiernström, Product Manager at EasyMining.

Sand may seem abundant and trivial, but it’s not. It’s used to manufacture a vast amount of products to the point of depletion. The only natural resource consumed more than sand is water, and the world is starting to run out of it. Illegal sand mining and even “beach theft” are on the rise across the globe.

The sand recovered through Ash2Phos is silica sand and features a high amount of iron oxide (the source of its red colouring). Stiernström says it’s comparable to sand used in many modern applications, and the EasyMining team always thought it had high potential as a sustainable alternative but was unsure for exactly which applications. So, they turned to Form Us With Love for insight. 

Focus on good and scalable business cases

Founded in 2005, Form Us With Love is an industrial design studio with a core focus on sustainability and using recycled materials that’s worked with global companies like IKEA and Samsung, as well as quintessentially Scandinavian design groups like Muuto and +Halle.

According to Agnes Svensson, Design Manager at Form Us With Love, the firm is built on the core belief of design that should have a positive impact on people and the planet but also the bottom line. 

– The focus can’t only be on sustainability. In order to create real environmental impact, the solutions also have to make good and scalable business cases. You have to see the business potential in sustainability and sustainability in business, she explains.

Svensson says that the entire team at Form Us With Love worked on the project at one stage or another. They gathered details like pain points and target groups in the pre-study, developed and tested potential applications in the studio, incorporated feedback from EasyMining, and then reached out to other industries and built partnerships to produce the prototypes.

– The biggest challenge was the complexity of the project, starting from the material and working to end up with something more tangible, like a product, and really looking at the full value chain. But that’s also what we really loved about this project, says Svensson.

Designing for the value chain & circularity

Not all of the roughly five development tracks Form Us With Love put together will immediately move on into the validation stage. Applications like concrete or terracotta tiles require such a large amount of sand for further use case testing that they’re being put on hold until the first Ash2Phos plant is up and running. But other tracks, such as the paint and wood wool for acoustic panelling, can continue on with development using just the sand from the Ash2Phos pilot production and lab testing currently in operation.       

For Stiernström, that comprehensive variety of development tracks was the main reason to work with Form Us With Love.

– They didn’t see the problems or applications that we saw. They saw all these opportunities and talked to all these people that we never come in contact with or think about. For example, paint wasn’t something we had ever thought about at all, she explains.

The tracks help demonstrate the full potential of Ash2Phos's red silica sand for partners throughout the whole value chain. Yet, ultimately, it's not to boost sales or increase market share but to ensure everything from the process becomes part of the circular economy.

– When you create a solution, you often focus on one thing. In this case, it’s recycling phosphorus. But to have a true circular solution, you have to recycle everything, says Stiernström.

Stool in sustainable concrete

Sustainable Sand

Learn more about the the material's potential and the collaboration between EasyMining and Form Us With Love.

Showcasing products

Within the Swedish Pavilion at the UN climate summit (COP28) we presented two circular products from the Ash2Phos process.