Recycle, Reuse, and Mitigate are three words you can hardly skip when discussing sustainability. The term sustainability emerged as an antidote to climate change. Restoring the environmental balance requires a lot of work, especially since scientists have estimated that at least 2m tonnes of plastic are in the oceans. Yet, the good news is it is still manageable. Scientific innovation has always been our greatest ally and, right now, our only key to tackling climate change. Here are some of the innovations that shows we are still capable of saving our planet.
The Sea Bin:
Marine life has taken a brutal hit, with plastic and wastes dominating beaches in some areas and risking the lives of 800 Marine species worldwide. Andrew Turton and Pete Ceglinski, two West Australian natives, decided to take robust action to help save marine life. After spending four years researching, they were able to develop the Seabin. The Seabin is an automated rubbish bin that creates a vacuum effect to collect floating plastic bags, oil pads, and random waste from up to 10 meters away in ports and marinas, where waste accumulates. The Seabin can catch 1 ton of floating debris annually via a reusable catch bag and a submersible water pump. What is remarkable about this technology is that it costs only 1 $ a day to operate, provides data about the collection process, and can adapt to run via solar power, making it more cost-effective. The Seabin development was funded by ocean lovers from around the globe bringing us $260,000 in two months and proving how people are willing to cooperate to save the environment one bin at a time.
Solar Blades From Food waste:
According to the International Renewable Energy Agency, solar power is a key solution to climate change. However, traditional blades are known only to generate energy in clear conditions and must face the sun directly because they rely on visible light. However, this cutthroat new invention is breaking all the rules as we know them. 27-year-old engineer student, Carvey Ehren Maigue from the heart of the Philippines capital Manila, was able not only to invent solar panels called AuReus that can harvest power from invisible UV rays that pass-through clouds but also these new solar blades are made from food waste. Luminescent atoms derived from agricultural waste are used in the AuReus blades system. Maigue extracts bioluminescent particles from specific fruits and vegetables; he crushes and extracts juices that are filtered and then distilled. Local farmers who have suffered from severe weather disruptions caused by global warming are the source of crops used. Over six million hectares of crops in the Philippines were damaged between 2006 and 2013, costing an estimated $3.8 billion. Maigue breakthrough invention has won James Dyson Sustainability Award in 2020, and he is now hoping to finish his development to bring his innovation immediately to the market.
We can’t talk about sustainable innovations and efforts to tackle climate change without mentioning efforts to minimize our plastic consumption. India, one of the most polluted countries in the world, uses around 120 billion pieces of plastic cutlery annually; with this information in mind and knowing that plastic takes about 450 years to decompose, 50-year-old Hyderabad-based researcher Narayana Peesapaty devoted his money, mortgaging his own house and time by quitting his job and worked around the clock to create an alternative to help his country. Finally came up with edible cutlery. Made from wheat dough, Jowar, and rice powder; the edible spoons are available in three different flavors: sweet, salty, and plain; edible cutlery is considered a handy alternative for plastic cutlery, especially since the expiry for this product is three years, and if not used dissolves after 4 to 5 days. Although edible cutlery still has a long way to replace plastic. However, it is changing the world one bite at a time.
Architecture has seen multiple stages of development over the past decades. Buildings have changed in design to fit the growing population and lifestyle. Over time, cities became more and more clustered with people and concrete; we needed to find an architectural solution to alter our buildings and absorb the extensive carbon emissions. In the heart of the Italian city of Milan, two residential tower host not only people but also 800 trees, 4,500 shrubs, and 15,000 plants from a wide range of shrubs and floral plants. This is impressive architecture called Vertical Forest. The plants absorb carbon emissions and dust, protecting the building from radiation and noise pollution. Vertical Forest combines the concepts of saving land through vertical urban design and promotes sustainable living. The plants were carefully selected and distributed according to sun exposure, and the irrigation system uses grey water produced inside the buildings. The construction cost of such a project is only 5% more than a traditional skyscraper, which encouraged governments like Singapore to follow in the same footsteps and push for more sustainable projects, offering to fund up to 50% of plant installations on existing buildings.
No matter how careful we are in disposing beer package rings, they always find their way to pollute our lands and oceans. E6PR (Eco Six Pack Ring) invented an Eco-friendly ring to hold cans made from only barley and wheat. The ring founders have earned a dozen awards since the project launch. Furthermore, craft brewers in Australia, South Africa, Poland, Scotland, and the Solomon Islands have reportedly signed on, aiming to create a zero-waste packaging solution for the beverage industry.
For centuries, nature had its way of repairing itself and restoring the balance. Still, when our consumption exceeded the norm, with only 10% of our 7 billion tonnes of plastic waste recycled, urgent help was needed. AirCarbon is made by capturing methane emissions from farms, landfills, and water treatment and turned into small plastic pellets. Traditional plastic is made from Petroleum-based materials, which take a long time to discompose, but what gives Aircarbon an innovative edge is that Aircarbon is made from natural materials which can be consumed back by nature, like tree leaves when they fall and dissolve back into the Eco cycle. The production process is environmentally friendly; it captures more CO2 than it emits; AirCarbon is much cheaper than Petroleum-based plastic; it can be melted into anything from fiber and sheets to solid parts and can be used in multiple industries, effectively replacing synthetic plastic. Global brand like IKEA started using AirCarbon in their products.
In the end, we need to keep in mind that the climate change clock is ticking fast; droughts, desertification, and natural disasters effects are now visible more than before. Scientists are doing their best to repair years' worth of damage. However, no matter how many products have been invented, we still need to change our mindset and take a vital, active step in tackling climate change because Earth is all we have.
Bosco Verticale (Vertical Forest), Milan, Italy (2023) World Construction Network. Available at: https://www.worldconstructionnetwork.com/projects/bosco-verticale-vertical-forest-milan/ (Accessed: 22 May 2023).
Brennan, I. (no date a) Australian invention: Seabin - Business Events - Tourism Australia, Australian Invention: Seabin - Business Events - Tourism Australia. Available at: https://businessevents.australia.com/en/news/australian-invention-seabin-tackles-ocean-pollution.html (Accessed: 22 May 2023).
Broom, D. (2022) This new material made from crop waste could rewrite the rules for solar power. here’s how, World Economic Forum. Available at: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2022/03/food-waste-transforming-solar-panels/ (Accessed: 22 May 2023).
Chhabria, P. (2022) How these floating ‘seabins’ can help clean up our waters, World Economic Forum. Available at: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2022/09/seabin-how-these-floating-garbage-bins-can-help-clean-up-our-waters/ (Accessed: 22 May 2023).
Dedovic, A. (2023) Seabin aims to raise $5 million to address Marine Pollution, Business News Australia. Available at: https://www.businessnewsaustralia.com/articles/climate-tech-seabin-aims-to-raise--5-million-to-address-marine-pollution.html (Accessed: 22 May 2023).
Flynn, V. (2016) Edible Cutlery Company wants us to eat our way out of plastic pollution, The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2016/apr/13/edible-cutlery-company-eat-plastic-pollution-oceans (Accessed: 22 May 2023).
Greenroofs, A. (2019) Bosco Verticale (Vertical Forest), Milan, Greenroofs.com. Available at: https://www.greenroofs.com/projects/bosco-verticale-vertical-forest-milan/ (Accessed: 22 May 2023).
Hahn, J. (2020) Solar panels made from food waste win inaugural James Dyson Sustainability Award, Dezeen. Available at: https://www.dezeen.com/2020/11/27/aureus-carvey-ehren-maigue-james-dyson-awards-sustainability/ (Accessed: 22 May 2023).
Hawks, V. (2022) Can aircarbon solve our single-use packaging problem?, Dieline. Available at: https://thedieline.com/blog/2022/3/25/can-aircarbon-solve-our-single-use-packaging-problem (Accessed: 24 May 2023).
Indianeagle (2016) Know how Narayana Peesapaty invented edible spoons: Inspirational story, Travel to India, Cheap Flights to India, Aviation News, India Travel Tips. Available at: https://www.indianeagle.com/travelbeats/narayana-peesapatys-edible-spoons-invention-story/ (Accessed: 22 May 2023).
Kart, J. (2019) E6PR Eco Six pack rings are being adopted by craft breweries, Forbes. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffkart/2019/03/24/e6pr-eco-six-pack-rings-are-being-adopted-by-craft-breweries/ (Accessed: 22 May 2023).
Nations, U. (2019) Philippines improving climate forecasting for farmers and fisherfolk, UNDP Climate Change Adaptation. Available at: https://www.adaptation-undp.org/philippines-improving-climate-forecasting-farmers-and-fisherfolk (Accessed: 22 May 2023).
Reddy, S. (2018) Plastic pollution affects sea life throughout the Ocean, The Pew Charitable Trusts. Available at: https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/articles/2018/09/24/plastic-pollution-affects-sea-life-throughout-the-ocean (Accessed: 22 May 2023).
Visual feature: Beat plastic pollution (2022) UNEP. Available at: https://www.unep.org/interactives/beat-plastic-pollution/ (Accessed: 24 May 2023).