Thursday 6 April 2017 10.53 BST
In 2014, the World Health Organisation dubbed air pollution the “single largest environment and human health threat”. With particulate matter and toxic pollutants accounting for 6.5 million deaths annually, many cities around the globe are gasping for solutions.
Engineer Anirudh Sharma has come up with a creative approach. While walking in Mumbai in 2013, the MIT Media Lab student and “chronic inventor” noticed that the plumes of diesel exhaust emitted by buses and cars were staining his clothing black.
“I thought: what if we could cleverly recycle all this soot that is making the world dirty, and use the pigment to make something beautiful, like ink?” Sharma says.
He formed a startup called Graviky Labs and has spent the past three years developing an exhaust filter that can capture 95% of the carbon soot from cars, generators and ferries and turn it into ink and paint. The result is Air-Ink, the world’s first line of art supplies made from air pollution. Following a successful Kickstarter campaign last month, the startup’s oil-based paints, markers and spray cans are set to ship in June. Sharma is now travelling to smog-choked cities around the world and challenging 19 street artists to create billboards and murals illustrating the effects of carbon waste, starting in London.
Last month, an installation dubbed “the world’s first clean air gallery” appeared in Windrush Square in Brixton, south London, which recently made headlines by surpassing its air pollution limit for the entire year in only five days. The pop-up featured works by artists from five of the UK’s most polluted cities (London, Glasgow, Leeds, Southampton and Nottingham) and used Air-Ink products made from exhaust collected over a five-day period.