This year, the mussels traditionally eaten during Lille’s annual flea market will wind up as tiles

Posted on 09 October 2018.

For the first time ever, the famous mussels didn’t finish up in landfill... but as ecological tiles! A circular initiative from the Lille-based start-up EtNISI.

4 metric tons of waste collected at the 2018 flea market will wind up as 400 m² of tiles.

This year Lille’s famous annual flea market was held on 1 and 2 September 2018 in the capital of Hauts-de-France. Bric-a-brac traders, tourists, bargain hunters and enthusiasts were there to give all sorts of objects a second life – and eat the inevitable mussels and fries! A great culinary classic in the region, it generates several metric tons of shells every year. So what about the waste?

Although the shells usually finish up in landfill, this year the Lille start-up EtNISI came up with an original solution: reuse them to make ecological tiles. Step 1: recover the mussel shells from Lille’s restaurants. And to make the operation as efficient as possible, they were informed upstream so the shells could be sorted and isolated from other non-recyclable waste (such as finger wipes).

The result: more than 4 metric tons of shells were collected! A vacuum truck supplied by Esterra - a subsidiary of Veolia – took them to Roubaix, less than 20 km away, to be processed.

This is where EtNISI, founded by Lille engineer, Esperance Fenzy, took over. Specializing in making floor and wall coverings using recycled raw materials, the start-up found just the right recipe to give these mussel shells a second life.

They are first cleaned of all organic matter, then crushed and mixed with limestone - also from the region - and finally cooked. Not to be eaten though! But to turn them into brand new 100% natural black tiles.

The 4 metric tons of waste collected during the 2018 flea market will wind up as 400 m² of tiles. Right now the process is still in the testing phase: Espérance Fenzy is keen to check the resistance of recycled shell tiles before marketing them.

The curious can see the results on November 23 and 24, 2018 in the brand new kitchen of La Friche Gourmande, an ephemeral restaurant in the Fives Cail district. Lille city hall - a partner in the project – is of course delighted with this local and circular initiative, which fits right in with its application for the European Green Capital Award.