There are now over seven billion people on our planet; a figure projected to go up by a billion in the next decade.
As our population increases, so has our consumption - and it’s profoundly affecting the environment. The world produces over a billion tonnes of garbage a year, and what doesn’t get recycled ends up in towering landfills that encroach on urban areas or are dumped into sea, polluting the water.
Not all is doom and gloom, however. Some companies and organisations around the world are stepping up with innovative inventions to help lessen the harm, and save this earth that we call home.
To fulfill the demand for leather products, over a billion animals are killed each year for their skin and hide. Much of this comes from livestock, which leaves a massive carbon footprint through the consumption of water and land resources. Synthetic leather is not much better, as it is made from oil in the form of plastic.
Enter Modern Meadow, a New Jersey-based biotech company that has come up with aneco-friendly alternative that doesn’t involve killing animals, but still satisfies the demand for ‘real’ leather. The ‘bioleather’ is made from collagen - the same material found in animal skin - that is cultivated from genetically engineered yeast, and can be made into different colours, textures and designs. While not yet available commercially, the company has successfully created a prototype T-shirt which went on display at the New York Museum of Modern Art.
Have Your Plate...And Eat It Too
Disposable plastic or paper plates are convenient - but they’re a massive waste of resources and the materials are not always biodegradable. Biotrem, a Polish company, has found a solution: by making edible plates and cutlery. The items are made from wheat bran using heat and a high pressure compress, without the need for a lot of water, mineral resources or chemicals. The plates and bowls are water resistant, so you can safely use them for soups or stews. They are also able to withstand temperatures up to 176 degrees Celsius for use in the oven or microwave. The best thing is, you won’t have to worry about doing the washing up!
The plates are fully biodegradable in the compost in just 30 days.
‘Plastic’ Bags That Dissolve In Water
Avani Eco, an Indonesian startup started in 2014, has been helping to deal with Indonesia’s giant problem with plastic waste - by introducing ‘plastic’ bags and containers made from cassava, also known as tapioca or arrowroot. The bags look and feel like plastic, but are biodegradable, and will break down into carbon dioxide and water within six months. They can also dissolve in water. The company has also expanded their line to include transparent plastic-like bowls made from cornstarch, as well as a rain poncho made from corn, soy and sunflower seeds.
Edible Water Blobs
Plastic bottles, many of which are used once and discarded, can take up to 450 years to break down - which means that long after we’re gone, our garbage will remain. A London-based startup called Skipping Rock Labs has the solution: ‘edible’ water blobs. Dubbed Ooho!, the spherical blobs are essentially a gel membrane made from seaweed enclosing a small volume of water. While its not yet available commercially due to shipping and handling issues, its developers have been testing it in several European markets.
Much of our trash winds up in the sea, killing marine life and polluting water sources. While a massive cleanup is in order, inventors Pete Ceglinski and Andrew Turto decided to get the ball rolling with the waters around marinas, residential lakes, harbours, waterways and ports. The Seabin is a floating ‘garbage can’ for the sea, connected to the dock via a water pump. The concept is simple but effective: the bin stays on the water’s surface and sucks water in, catching debris and trash, and water flows into the pump on the dock and back to sea.