The product, which won the Homes and Gardens Eco Designer award in 2012, grew from one of University of Brighton's great strengths, sustainable design. Inspired by a passion for recycling and an awareness of the circlets of spat-out gum that bespeckle Brighton's pavements, Anna's subsequent research work led to a real design breakthrough. "I suddenly realised that chewing gum is already a rubber, and rubber can be recycled and made into stuff, so why not gum?" Anna recounts. After eight months in a lab, Anna was able to turn old gum into a new material, getting it to make a foam, then a used-gum pellet and, with ingredients that remain a closely-guarded secret, she extracted a polymer that she calls BRGP (Bullus Recycled Gum Polymer).
This is the substance she uses to make the pink bubble bins which were first trialled on the London streets early in 2010. When the bins are full, both bin and innards are recycled into new BRGP, which in turn become more bins and possibly other products, too. Anna has already gone on to make other products that explore the application of this unique material and its many inherent sustainability opportunities.The BRGP innovation has been achieving awards since its early appearence. In 2007, the 'Gumnetic Bin’ as it was known, brought Anna Bullus success as one of two students from the 3D Design programme in University of Brighton's College of Arts and Humanities to win the British Council's National Design Award. She and Demelza Hill followed in the footsteps of 3D Design graduate Keiren Jones, who won the award in 2006 and who has gone on to have his work published in books and magazines.
Anna's philosophy is that "materials and processes should be understood thoroughly in order to push properties to achieve innovation without loss of quality. Problems are only there to be overcome by simple, clever and comfortable design that recognises daily social and environmental trends and needs – striving every time to be more creative than the last design."
Such products characterise the sustainable approach taken in the 3D Design programme that has led to pioneering but practical considerations of our sustainable futures. This vitally important process of learning about design and the act of proposing new products through the process of physically exploring materials is unfortunately a student experience that has become an increasingly rare as more and more emphasis is given to digital representation and virtual experiences of objects in education.
However 3D Design and 3D Materials Practice at the University of Brighton reflects an increasing demand in industry for this level of tangible skill and is clearly demonstrating how material technology and sustainable design intention might play a leading role in sorting out our unsustainable actions in the future and recent graduates have progressed vocationally to influence the design of products within companies like Habitat, Nokia, VW and Audi, and even the Police.