The 2016 Sustainia100 is out today and this year's solutions provide a glimpse into a global business landscape that is seizing a world of opportunities that arise from the UN's newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Get ready for an inspirational round-the-world trip to the 100 most innovative, available, scalable and sustainable solutions to the world's most pressing challenges. From health solutions that tackle climate change to renewable energy products that alleviate gender inequality, this year's Sustainia100 sets out the most outstanding solutions which respond to the interconnected global challenges addressed through the Sustainable Development Goals.
According to our findings, this is the year of "systemic opportunity" with more businesses around the world acknowledging the business case for solving global risks.
“The term 'systemic' often brings to mind intractable problems, such as systemic poverty or systemic corruption. The global goals give us focus and pace, so we think it's time to reclaim the word and talk about systemic opportunity, instead. The Sustainia100 shows us that the most compelling and successful solutions tackle multiple challenges and global goals, in one go," Morten Nielsen, managing director of Sustainia, explained.
The Sustainia100 is the fifth of its kind, behind which sits a database of more than 4,500 solutions from all over the world. This year's edition features solutions deployed in 188 countries and more than half come from the SME sector.
In her foreword to the Sustainia100, Lise Kingo, the executive director of United Nations Global Compact, reflects on the pace and direction set by the Sustainable Development Goals:
“The Sustainia100 offers us 100 reasons to be hopeful and inspired as we embark on this 15 year journey. The innovative thinking needed to accomplish the SDGs by 2030 already exists today. Now our task is to spread the word about these transformative solutions in order to help them scale and inspire new actors to take part in forging the path to a more sustainable future."
Since 2012, the Sustainia100 has tracked the rise of the circular economy, big data, leapfrog technologies, climate resilience and community action as some of the most defining trends within sustainable action. In 2016, the publication highlights four new trends that stem from the solutions identified.
Morten Nielsen continued: “The trends we've noted point to this new era of systemic opportunity. You can readily see this in the way that cities are becoming health facilitators or the disruption of the time-old electric grid, as just two great examples of big shifts in opportunity-spotting. It's exciting to see global markets respond favorably to this new landscape of sustainable action."
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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