University of South Florida

Patel College of Global Sustainability

Making a Difference in the World


Recycling Glass into "Trashcrete"

Professor Thomas Henry CulhaneSustainable Living Podcast host

Professor Thomas Henry CulhaneSustainable Living Podcast host

Professor Thomas Henry (TH) Culhane, Director of Climate Mitigation and Adaptation at the Patel College of Global Sustainability, joined Anni Ellis and Tanja Vidovic at 88.5 WMNF radio station for the latest Sustainable Living podcast, to discuss his newest recycling/upcycling adventure of creating “trashcrete.” Sustainable Living holds conversations with local experts on topics around sustainability: alternative energy, organic gardening, farming, and more, in order to create a balanced and enduring impact on the world.

Culhane is a professor at the Patel College of Global Sustainability, and the co-founding director of the not-for-profit educational corporation “Solar CITIES Inc.” Living in an off-grid solar-powered camper with his family, Culhane fully embraces a sustainable lifestyle. This approach extends beyond just energy consumption; he actively experiments with converting organic waste into valuable resources like fuel and fertilizer through biodigesters, which he refers to as his "domestic dragons." On his latest demonstration of how valuable recycled materials are, he discussed how he and his team at the Rosebud Continuum Eco Science Center have developed a method to reduce the particle size in waste materials, transforming them into usable aggregates for making paving stones and sculptures. This process recycles materials that would otherwise end up in landfills, and repurposes them in a creative way to generate functional and artistic products from waste with future intent to use for everyday structures.

Culhane further highlighted the educational aspect of his work, emphasizing the importance of involving students and the community in these initiatives. He passionately spoke about the need to educate younger generations on the impacts of waste and the potential for sustainable waste management practices to improve the environment.

Learn how PCGS Alums are leading city-wide initiatives in sustainability  

During the podcast, Culhane further gave credit to some of his notable students who joined his cause of recycling glass. PCGS students were nerved about the lack of recycling options for glass materials, and the abundance of single-use plastics that are detrimental to the environment. By using their experiences from their homes and the places they have travelled across the world, alongside their intuition, and sustainable engineering knowledge, they brainstormed possible solutions - "trashcrete" being one of them.

While Culhane supports proper recycling of existing plastic materials, he also argued in support of shifting from the use of fossil fuel-based plastics and moving towards more sustainable alternatives, such as bioplastics or recycled plastics. Culhane indicated that these materials can be reintegrated into the economy without the environmental impact associated with traditional plastics. Culhane advocates for a shift in perspective towards waste. By seeing value in what is traditionally considered waste, communities and businesses can transform their approach to materials and their lifecycle.

Learn more about the WMNF Sustainable Living show here.

Listen to Dr. Culhane's interview.

Learn more about Dr. Culhane here.

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