Upcycling is perhaps our most progressive response to ecological mismanagement. It is, in every sense of the term, turning trash into treasure; by rescuing and repurposing material otherwise bound for the trash-heap, upcyclers are at the vanguard of resource preservation—which just happens to be a twenty-first century eco-practice that just might save the planet.
So (for all our sake) take that to the extreme. Daan Roosegaarde did, with a project intended to not only clean the very air we breathe, but to also turn the particulate pollution—the stuff you’d rather not think about, but is gumming up your lungs as we speak—into existentially grim yet unexpectedly compelling jewelry.
The mechanism for this atmospheric metamorphosis is a 23-foot cantilevered tower, acting as catalyst and centerpiece for Roosegarde’s Smog Free Project.
Like any good potential planet-saving idea, this one is elegant in its simplicity—it works much like the air-purifier you might have in your home or office. Powered by green-energy sources, the system positively charges its 264 exterior horizontal plates, which attracts and holds the negatively charged particulate matter in the air. It can, in its silent and diligent way, clean 30 cubic meters of air per hour.
Above and beyond this functional design, the Project goes one step further: by isolating, compressing, and affixing as jewelry the collected soot, it upcycles a stark, tangible reminder of the actual and potential states of our life-sustaining atmosphere.
The prototype tower is currently churning out a bubble of breathable air in Rotterdam, and is the subject of plans for a world tour—stops in mega-polluted Mumbai and Beijing are in the works. Great idea, but here’s a better one: Why don’t we just replicate this simple, beautiful idea, and put one of these on every block?