Scientists And Refugees Team Up To Use Old Mattresses To Grow Crops

Necessity is the mother of invention and a team of scientists and refugees have proven that old saying is as true as ever with an inspiring collaboration. As you might expect, refugee camps generate a huge number of foam mattresses that, once used, are simply discarded and taken to landfills.

However a team of scientists from the University of Sheffield, in the UK,  has come up with a brilliant new use for the mattresses—turning that trash into treasure.

University of Sheffield

The scientists, led by Professor Tony Ryan, postulated that the foam mattresses could be used in a hydroponic system to help grow crops and now they’re testing their theory at the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, which is home to some 79,000 refugees from the Syrian Civil War.

In hydroponic farming, plants are grown directly in water supplemented with nutrients, which is much more efficient than the traditional method of growing plants in soil.

University of Sheffield

According to the Good News Network, “The method uses 70-80% less water than planting straight into the soil and eliminates the need for pesticides.”

The foam from the recycled mattresses is used to stabilize the plants in their containers, in lieu of soil, allowing the refugees who are participating in the study to grow a variety of plants and herbs indoors and out of the brutal desert heat.

(University of Sheffield)

Many of the Syrian refugees in the camp are experienced farmers and have really taken the program and run with it, expanding the possibilities beyond what the scientists had imagined.

According to Professor Ryan, as quoted by GNN:

“The refugees we have worked with have taken our training and made the project their own, growing things we never thought would be possible in the desert environment using recycled materials.”

Now the team is seeking funding to expand this program of “desert gardens” further. It’s amazing what a little ingenuity can do.

University of Sheffield

You can watch a video about the program and see an interview with Professor Ryan below:


Written by Stefan

Writer and middle school limbo champ.