Written by 11:54 Gear, Sustainability Views: [tptn_views]

Shell helmets

Turning discarded scallop shells into hard hats

The thing about inventions or developments in technology is the way they’re discovered in the most arbitrary or unexpected way.

Such is the serendipitous discovery and partnership between TBWA/Hakuhodo’s creative team and the Osaka-based Koushi Chemical Industry Co. You see, in Sarufutsu village on the northernmost of Japan’s island, Hokkaido, there lurks 40,000 tons of discarded scallop shells, which is the annual byproduct of the area’s seafood industry. Left to the elements, this mass of shells can cause soil contamination and are of increasing concern to the local community. 

Stacks of scallop shells can cause soil contamination over time. Photo: Davie Bicker 

The shells are usually separated from their precious innards and cast off, waiting for processing companies to dispose of them for a fee, or be incinerated. Some are reused to be used as reefs, building materials or fertilisers but because of the high costs involved in processing the shells into shapes that are easy to recycle, their use at an everyday consumer level has been severely limited.

 But that’s where the chemical nous of Koushi comes in. It cleans, pulverises and mixes the shells with recycled plastic, to form a new material shellistic (shell+plastic), which can be moulded and used again in the same way as conventional plastics.

Recycling, reusing, regenerating

This new material is then moulded into a ribbed helmet shape – the Hotamet – where its biomimicry construction adds almost 30 per cent strength to the structure as opposed to a conventional helmet design, and reduces CO2 emissions by up to 50%. It’s a double win for the world and the local community: not only does it save on using newly created virgin plastics by combining the shells with recycled plastics, but it also reuses the shells, and prevents them from becoming an eyesore and contaminating the local soil. It also comes in five different yet fetching, aqua-related colours: Coral White; Ocean Blue; Sand Cream; Deep Black and Sunset Pink.

There is also some synergy between the shell’s use as a way to protect and defend itself from any danger, and Hotamet’s modified use as a helmet. In recent years, Hokkaido has seen a resurgence in large-scale earthquakes, as well as heavy rain and snow damage owing to abnormal weather conditions. So not only is the helmet fit for use in the challenging environments that scallop fishermen encounter, but also for villagers and others in the local community to use and protect themselves. Resourceful engineers of Japan, we tip our hats to you.


Koushi Chemical Industry Co.