Innovation That Matters

The Earthshot Prize: Build a waste-free world

Springwise Earthshot

From seaweed packaging to leather made from flower waste, discover The Earthsot Prize finalists moving circularity forward

Underlying many of our man-made woes is the fact that our lifestyles and consumption habits are extremely wasteful. One-third of the food produced for human consumption is wasted or lost annually. Meanwhile, single-use plastics account for 40 per cent of the plastic produced each year, and globally only 9 per cent of plastic waste is recycled. All in all, the economic growth of the past century has moved in lockstep with increased resource consumption.

However, three of the 2022 finalists of The Earthshot Prize are upending this model, making the circular economy a reality.

MAKING PLASTIC-FREE LEATHER FROM DISCARDED FLOWERS

Ritual offerings of flowers are an important part of Indian daily life. But what happens to temple flowers after religious ceremonies? Flowers used in religious rituals are considered sacred and are therefore not disposed of in landfill. Instead, rivers such as the Ganges are the ultimate destination for much of the 800 million tonnes of daily floral waste. Now, an Indian startup is turning this floral waste into a sustainable leather alternative. Read more

REPLACING SINGLE-USE PLASTIC WITH A SEAWEED-BASED PACKAGING

Nearly half of all the plastic ever made was produced since the year 2000, while annual plastic production today runs at nearly 400 million tonnes. What is the ultimate fate of all this synthetic material? Only nine per cent of all the plastic we’ve produced has been recycled, while 12 per cent has been incinerated. The rest has been sent to landfill or informally dumped. UK-based Notpla is turning to seaweed as a solution to the plastic problem. The company uses seaweed waste to create biodegradable alternatives to traditional plastic packaging. Read more

CREATING A CIRCULAR CITY

Humanity is relying on the extraction of more and more raw materials. How can we reverse this situation? The circular economy is an attempt to re-wire our economic systems by re-using materials over and over again in closed cycles. This reduces waste and, in turn, the demand for new materials. The City of Amsterdam hopes to be a pioneer in the circular economy through a strategic framework and a policymaking tool called the ‘City Doughnut’. Read more

Written by: Matthew Hempstead

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