Award EU

Who Will Win The European Social Innovation Competition?

The European Social Innovation Competition is an initiative run by the European Commission across all European countries. The 2019 Competition is titled Challenging Plastic Waste. This competition seeks the most innovative projects, products, services, business models and collaborations that tackle plastic waste.

Three €50,000 prizes will be awarded by the European Commission for the most innovative projects designed to reduce plastic waste.

The European Social Innovation Competition, launched in memory of Diogo Vasconcelos, is a Competition run by the European Commission across all European countries, now in its seventh year.

The projects must be related to:

  • Reducing the consumption of single use plastic products;
  • Recycling, reusing, and upcycling existing plastic waste;
  • Dealing with accumulated plastic waste in landfills and the environment;
  • Changing consumer behaviours, retail and wider business practices to reduce levels of plastic waste and/or increase recycling and re-use;
  • Implementing alternative business models and optimising supply chains to reduce plastic waste and/or increase recycling and re-use;
  • Introducing new materials fit for a circular economy or that offer sustainable alternatives to fossil-based plastics;

 

We’ve chosen our favourite project at the bottom of the article.

The Finalists

CROATIA – APAGA

Apaga engages people in recycling by allowing them to benefit from it. It is a platform bringing together and rewarding environmentally aware people from all around the world in one green community. Starting from Yerevan, Armenia, our users register on the app and create their profile page.

They receive a unique QR code, which they can use to access a network of smart containers for their plastics to be recycled. Once users enter their plastics, the quantity is measured and the plastic is delivered to the storage container. Based on the quantity, users are rewarded with green points on the app.

These points can be used for getting discount coupons, special offers and gifts from our retail partners (shops, restaurants, etc.). The quantity measured is also recorded on the profile page of users, where they can see their total environmental impact.

Containers are equipped with ultrasound sensors, which show in our database when they get full. Orders to empty the containers is automatically placed to our ‘Uber-like’ collectors, who take care of transportation to our partner recycling companies.

Additionally, various community development and gamification features will be implemented on the platform, such as high quality green content, competitions, green lotteries and others. Apaga aims to turn recycling into a fun and engaging activity that is easy, rewarding and benefits the whole society.

GERMANY – DYCLE

The Diaper Cycle transforms the hygiene, health and waste problem of diapers into an opportunity to generate jobs, soil and fruits.

It started with the design of 100% bio-based diapers. The combination of biodegradable plastics from vegetable sources that does not compete with food and the absorption of solid and liquid excrement with several mixture of natural fibers permits the conversion of used diapers into rich clean compost. Its carbon content is high thus ideal to plant fruit trees. The production of the diapers is local, using a simple semi-automatized machinery co-designed by our partner in India who has been in production of 100% compostable female sanitary pads.

After designing and producing the diapers, which took three years to come to a satisfactory level, we developed and tested a community-based collection and distribution system. Parents receive diapers and return the soiled ones once week to a central point. This reduces the cost of collection and distribution, while it empowers the parents to divert a waste stream from the landfills and incinerators to create a healthy soil. This large-scale production of black earthmeets international hygiene standards. This drives a large fruit tree planting campaign since each child in its life as a diaper-kid will produce approximately one ton of black earth. That is enough nutrients for 1,000 trees. The business model builds on the sale of trees, rather than the cost of diapers. This creates community and aligns citizens with nature.

BULGARIA – ZERO WAVE

Everyday in Bulgaria (and around the world) huge amounts of malt turns into waste after beer production. This residual malt is sometimes used as a feed for animals but more often goes straight to landfill. Beer producers even have to pay waste management companies to come and take this malt and then send it to landfill. We took some of this ‘waste product’ and sent it to the laboratory to see what the composition of malt was and its nutritional characteristics were. The results showed us that malt can be great nutritious food and has protein, slow carbohydrates and some saccharides which makes it great as a food for people.

In 2021 disposable plastics will be banned in Europe and a lot of fast food restaurants, big festivals, municipalities and companies will suffer if they don’t find a good and relatively cheap solution. Edible plates and utensils could be a great solution to this upcoming problem. Inspired by this we made trials aiming to end up with different edible things made of this residual malt. We baked crackers, small bawls and plates. This product is 100% biodegradable and compostable. It can perfectly replace the plastic disposable plates and utensils and at the same time won’t change the current processes in our client’s businesses. And the biggest advantage is that it eliminates the need of plastic.

SPAIN – EKOMODO

From all the plastic that is produced globally, it is estimated that about 30% of it ends up being thrown away on land or into the sea, and that only about 10% of it is recycled.

With the aim of helping to raise awareness of the importance of taking care of our planet and encourage greater recycling, Ekomodo was born in 2018. It creates a collection of products eco-designed, with innovative materials 100% recycled from plastic waste, 100% recyclable and manufactured in a socially friendly way. They are oriented towards the B2B market, with ecological merchandising. Ekomodo is part of the Eko-REC Group, an industrial company, part of a circular economy: the only one in Europe which, in addition to recycling the plastic thrown to the yellow container (we recycle about 5 million bottles a day = 23,000Tn/year), we also convert the material obtained in our own facilities in two products : PET film, to make recycled containers; and fiber polyester, for the manufacture of automotive and textile components. In addition to the industrial part, we innovate in R&D projects and new products. Fruit of this effort Ekomodo was born, transforming waste into quality products, with style and sustainable for the day to day. More than transforming plastic waste into products eco-designed with innovative materials and 100% recyclable, each Ekomodo represents a message: that we must take care of our planet and that plastic waste can be resource.

NORWAY – EMPOWER

Our solution challenges plastic waste by giving it a value: anyone who comes and deposits plastic waste at a collection point will receive a financial reward given out under the form of digital tokens. One would only need a smartphone and our Empower mobile application. As the plastic collector delivers plastic waste, they present their QR code to be scanned, and receive the tokens immediately in their digital wallet. The tokens can be converted to their local currency (1 token = 1 USD) or donated to fund another clean-up. As people get rewarded when they bring in plastic, we are incentivising the clean-up of plastic waste on a large scale and closing the tap on plastic leakage into nature.

Our solution also enables direct recycling aids to countries who do not have the resources and waste management systems to handle plastic pollution by themselves. The transparency and trace-ability of our blockchain-powered solution – which permits the immutable recordings of when, where, how much plastic has been collected and how much the plastic waste collector has been paid – provide the credibility for sponsors to invest in Empower’s plastic fund to support plastic clean-ups where they are most needed. We ensure the security of the transactions and bridge the trust gap that exists when it comes to deploying financial aids. Individuals, businesses and local governments can offset their plastic waste footprint and see the real impact that they are making on the plastic waste issue.

SLOVENIA – EVEGREEN

We believe in biodegradable plastic like materials, made from renewable resources as a a sustainable alternative to plastic. Evegreen developed a formula and the technology for the production of biodegradable plastics from agro waste (wheat husk, rice husk etc.). From this material we designed an biodegradable flower pot, which three months after planting in the soil becomes food for microorganisms, and transforms itself into plant fertilizer. Additionally, it protects the young sapling in the pot from pests.

BULGARIA – FOUNTAINS of BULGARIA

According to Forbes: globally people buy 1 million plastic bottles per minute. It takes 3 litres of water and 1/4 litre of petrol to produce a 1 litre plastic bottle. 91% of all plastic is not recycled. On top of that, it is estimated that over half a trillion plastic bottles will be sold in 2020. People buy bottled water, because of its convenience and because they believe that it’s safer  for them, but there are many sources of clean drinkable water in Bulgaria and Europe generally. With the creation of a unified map of all free public drinkable water sources our society will have a strong and convenient tool at their disposal. The first stage of the idea is already executed – to publish the map of all free drinking water spots in Bulgaria, filled by volunteers. As a second stage we will partner with certified laboratories to test the quality of the water sources. Meanwhile we will start a communication campaign based on 3 key pillars – 1) global plastic pollution and water scarcity facts 2)engaging the Bulgarian society to volunteer and add water spots to the map 3)sharing information about the quality of the sources in order to ensure people that it is absolutely ok to drink from them. Ultimately the map will start featuring cafes and restaurants that serve filtered tap water. This way more business owners will be motivated to do it, reducing the plastic pollution.

GREECE – FUNPLASTIC TOYS

FunPlastic re-imagines an ecosystem where marine plastic waste is transformed into educational toys for children, becoming the foundation of a more prosperous society and economy. Plastic is a major contributor to marine pollution. Oceans are an essential source of life. The oceans contain 97% of all water, providing living creatures with drinking water.

FunPlastic seeks to encourage the next generation to fight ocean pollution, by designing a series of colorful toys made from upcycled marine plastic waste. The goal is to raise awareness for sustainability and connect children to this major environmental problem through each character’s narrative. FunPlastic Toys are a collection of sea animals, whose stomachs are full of indigestible marine plastic garbage. Each character comes with its own educational story booklet, describing its life at the sea and how it is affected by plastic pollution. With the use of a fishing rod the children can remove the plastic debris from the animals’ stomachs and through play, familiarize themselves with the most common types of marine plastic waste and how it affects the ecosystem.

All toys are digitally crafted from upcycled marine plastic with the use of 3D printing. All marine plastic waste will be collected from the cruise ships that sail the Mediterranean sea. The new products are re-recyclable, hence completely circular.

Introducing children, through play, to the circular economy and raising awareness of plastic recycling will contribute to a more sustainable future and establish the framework for a more engaged society as a whole.

CROATIA – GREEN SAIL

Green Sail has developed 2 programs that unite various nautical businesses involved in tourism in Croatia in order to improve their environmental policies and start changing their habits.

The Green Sail Charter Program promotes the importance of recycling and reducing plastic products for charter companies and their guests, both on sailing boats and within marinas. To date, this program includes over 50 charter companies with more than 1,200 sailing boats. We provide them with education, necessary materials (flags, brochures and stickers for sailboats) before their first departure, as well as support in individual and joint projects. Additionally, Green Sail prepares documents used along with pre-departure information for charter clients strongly focusing on reduce, reuse and recycle principles in order to help them prepare for their vacation.

The Green Sail Marina Program advises partner marinas on appropriate waste management practices, with an emphasis on efficient (plastic) waste separation. For its partner marinas, the initiative provides educational, promotional and informative materials, a marine guide, regular check-ups and advice, whenever needed. So far, the program has around 30 marinas along the Croatian coastline, as well as one marina in Montenegro.

Having achieved great success in Croatia with these programs (over 230 thousand charter clients were introduced with Green Sail messages in 2018), our aim is to transfer this concept to other countries with a developed nautical industry. We have proved that changing habits and practices within this sector is possible and very well accepted and it is our obligation to disseminate these activities further.

ROMANIA – Kidibot Plastic Battles

Earth is under attack from the nasty aliens, called Crocobets. They use stupidity and laziness as their main weapons. The only way to save the planet is through reading, learning and ACTING. Kidibot is a nice little robot that helps kids. The reports from the Kidibot spies shows that for the past 40 years, Crocobets have initiated a vicious plan to undermine our health and future through hyper-plastic usage. Kids are the only ones that stand between Earth annihilation and a clean future. They will be involved in an epic battle against plastic waste on 2 different fronts: understanding the dangers of plastic usage plus community involvement.

Online, there will be micro-courses on plastic waste (5-10 minutes), quizzes to answer afterwards, rankings, virtual badges (eco-warriors), diplomas, missions (solve 1 quiz every day for 5 days) quests to find artifacts for extra powers, monthly prizes.

Offline, the kids with their mobile phones must report from their community plastic waste examples (picture, GPS location, details) and these details will go to local/state authorities after pre-approval, as community involvement. The fighters will act in teams (classrooms) and/or individuals, with or without teacher supervision. So, kids will learn that they should not use plastic too much and they’ll start small protests within local communities to save the environment.

FINLAND – Koepala Aterimo

Aterimo combines cutting-edge materials and technology together with a functional and innovative design. It reduces the amount of time and work needed for waste handling, by eliminating the excess materials and items in the takeaway packaging. Aterimo can reduce the amount of waste by 50% when compared to existing rigid packaging alternatives. The reduction in weight and subsequent reduction of logistical volume also means that the CO2 emissions of the packaging’s life cycle are significantly lowered.

SPAIN

Pana is a turnkey solution to encourage parents to use washable – hence reusable – nappies, by renting them, picking the soiled nappies up, cleaning them, delivering the cleaned nappies from the door back to the door. Pick up and delivery service will be done by cargo bikes, with or without electric assistance (depending on the area and topography to cover), to avoid any transportation-related contamination. This service completely eliminates the single-use plastic found in baby changing products for the whole duration a baby or young child has to wear nappies (about 2.5 years). Per child (from birth until potty-trained), this represents around 325kg of plastic waste avoided, 675kg of cotton and other absorbing material avoided, as well as production-related energy (70% saved), water (37% saved) and chemical usage.

BULGARIA – LAM’ON

Laminating is the process of gluing a thin layer of plastic to a paper with the help of heat. It is used to seal and preserve posters, menus, magazine covers and much more. Lamination provides strength and flexibility to the paper, changes the texture to glossy or matt and creates various effects to catch the eye of the customer. All of those products are meant to be used for a year, a month, or a week, yet they can last for a 100 years. Not only is the production of plastic damaging to nature but the fact that it’s almost impossible to separate from the paper makes it really hard to recycle.

LAM’ON is basically made from corn. The film is based on bio-polymers while the glue layer is completely non-toxic and suited for the needs of the printing industry.

Moreover, during our prototyping phase we established that there are no VOC emissions (it actually smells a bit like caramel), allowing us to provide a healthier environment for the people producing or using LAM’ON. Finally, because of its biodegradability, depending on the type of paper that is laminated, the end product can be recycled or even composted. All components used in the film are 100% biodegradable and certified.

FRANCE – Le Pavé par Sasminimum

At present, there is 7 billion tons of plastic  waste in nature and the oceans. Recycling solutions exist but they are unsatisfactory because they constitute short-term solutions like recycling a plastic bottle into another plastic bottle. We use post-consumer recycled plastic harvested in nature and place it in a long-term cycle, that of construction, turning it into an eco-material that is recyclable and intended for different uses. To do this we have developed a unique industrial technique over the past 2 years. In addition, we are developing a deposit system for our material to be recycled or reused when the user is finished with it. Our material can be crushed and transformed or placed on another construction site.

NETHERLANDS – Litter Traps & Recycled Park

The Recycled Island Foundation makes proposals on how to deal with plastic pollution. From our Rotterdam office we work on the prevention, awareness, education, retrieval and re-use of marine litter. Our key projects are currently our litter traps, to retrieve marine debris, and Recycled Park. Our litter traps are made of recycled plastic. The litter traps retrieve plastic from rivers in multiple countries, just before it reaches sea. The plastics are recycled to give new value to the river. From the plastics we also construct floating platforms for a new green environment; a floating park.

UK – Luft Parcel

E-commerce continues to expand in Europe and today as many as 270 million Europeans say that they regularly shop online. This is producing an increase in single use packaging: for each order plastic bags, cardboard boxes, inner cushioning such as bubble wraps are used and discarded as waste after only 24/48 hours of use. Using a similar model to the bottle-return system implemented in many European countries, “Luft” is an inflatable parcel that the end consumer (once they have unpacked their order) can post back to the retailer in exchange for a refund of the deposit they paid when ordering. The parcel is durable and is made to be used repeatedly up to 20-30 times.

Most sustainability experts will agree that packaging greatest environmental impact is dominated by

  • a) use of resources
  • b) production stages

By using the same packaging again and again the use of energy, water and pollution emission at the manufacturing (and recycling) stage is greatly reduced as one “Luft” parcel replaces several conventional parcel units. Furthermore as “Luft” is designed to be always sent back to the retailer it will be collected for recycling when the parcel needs to be replaced ensuring that no plastic is released into the environment.

CZECH REPUBLIC – MIWA

MIWA´s goal is to apply the principles of circular economy into the category of daily use packaged products (such as pasta, cereals, pet food or cleaning products) that are still considered a niche market (“packaging free stores”). These solutions face multiple issues that keep branded producers and key retailers outside the game and block the possibility to scale it up to market standard.At MIWA, we have reinvented the approach completely. We have built a new distribution business model around the principle of circular packaging with enhanced data and information features that put the solution into the 21st century. MIWA provides producers (brands) standardized, smart reusable packaging (the capsule with RFID/NFC tag). The reusable packaging works in tandem with equipment supplied by MIWA to retailers; the in-store equipment is designed to dispense the product in a comfortable and hygienic way, while the  system delivers the information about goods. MIWA keeps control of all packaging and materials circulating in the system.A standard full-fledged Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) study was commissioned to compare environmental impacts of the MIWA system compared to current conventional packaging. The results show that the overall carbon footprint can be reduced by 47-62% and the overall environmental impact by up to 71%.The MIWA solution has been recognized and awarded by several impact authorities and quoted in key circular economy papers. (e.g. Ellen McArthur foundation, SGD Awards, E.ON Energy Globe Awards, European Commission, UN)

REPUBLIC OF NORTH MACEDONIA – KARA PLAST

KaraPlast: Paving Sustainable Communities of the Future is a social enterprise idea that combines the altruist motives for a better life in the environment together with a sustainable business model that will support it on a long-term level while distinguishing it from its competitors. This will be achieved by creating infrastructure and houses that will be partly made from plastic granules by adding them as one of the components in the production process. Materials that can be made with this process are bricks, rooftop tiles, pavements and even asphalt, which cover the most common materials used in public spaces and infrastructure, but also most of the materials used during construction of living buildings. The benefits from buying these materials varies from environmentally friendly motives by increasing the recycling rate of the plastic to paying less for more durable materials that will last longer since the degrade rate of plastic is around 500 years. Furthermore, the concept for eco-friendly living buildings will be developed even further by using the methods of a passive house.

There will be an additional opportunity to install solar panels and wind turbines with every house constructed, which will be more affordable than the ones on the market. Additionally, the enterprise will offer to install a plastic waste container near the building for free if the customer chooses the option. The plastic will be collected by a team from the enterprise regularly, which later will be used in the creation process of new materials.

FRANCE – Plas’tri

Challenging plastic waste simply by increasing the recycling rate is a chimera: as of today, virgin plastic is cheaper than recycled plastic, hence plastic makers have no economic incentive to stop producing virgin plastic. Therefore, recycled plastic must be made more competitive.

The balance between treated volume and the investments to process it is an issue in the recycling industry. Collectivities provide large volumes of plastic waste which allows an investment in a fully automatized line to be profitable while industries are producing more diffuse waste flows across the territory. Another point is the need to separate the different kind of plastics (polymers) before recycling because they don’t melt at the same temperature. Most of SMBs identify plastics manually because the alternatives are too expensive to use. This leads to a low recycling rate, around 80%, because in case of doubt the waste is discarded to respect the purity standards. Yet, discarding is costly since sorting centers must pay a tax for landfill, impacting their competitiveness. Consequently, we are developing a polymer-identification tool, which resembles a supermarket’s scan, that will be used by people sorting plastics by hand.

FRANCE  – Plast’if

A machine comparable to Plast’if does not exist. There isn’t another machine that recycles plastic waste from companies allowing them to print new products in 3D from this waste. In France, recycling solutions are limited to conventional solutions from companies like Veolia or SUEZ who do not really encourage people to recycle. These competitors offer only a container where people can recycle. Others recycling companies, like Cannibal and Lemon-tri offer a small reward for recycling waste. Canibal uses a reward lottery process (eg: cinema tickets) and Lemon-Tri, a deposit style system where one cent per recycled waste. However, these rewards are not personalized.

Plast’if creates value by upgrading plastic waste into new products printed in 3D. This added value is created by employees and for employees. Employees participate in this transformation since their plastic waste is transformed and printed in new products of their choice. Moreover, the printed products will benefit employees, but also associations, because the products could be, for example, prostheses given back to people with disabilities. Plast’if encourages recycling in a sustainable way, rewarding recurrent recycling. Plast’if also allows the democratization of 3D printing in business by creating team cohesion. Teams work together and encourage each other to recycle. Plast’if is the first recycler offering encrypted data on recycled plastic in companies. This data can be published in their CSR reports.

UK – PLUUMO

Pluumo is made from surplus feathers, of which around 3 million tons are produced every year in the EU. Feather fibres are combined with a small amount of compostable binder. The resulting textile is highly insulating and we wrap this in a food grade compostable film for ease of handling. Two pluumo liners are placed inside a cardboard delivery box. Products can be kept cool during delivery without using expanded polystyrene, and pluumo has been designed to be totally compostable at the end of its life. We have already completed pilot manufacturing and testing, and have some early customers in the UK as we launched the product last year.

The specific idea for this project will now be to scale our idea across Europe. We already manufacture in Denmark and source our feathers from the Czech Republic. However, lowering the cost of manufacturing is extremely important to make this a commercially viable product. Therefore we need to further investigate partnerships across Europe and increase efficiency. We are already in discussions with organisations in Spain and France. We also need to increase awareness of pluumo across Europe to increase sales.

Additionally, we wish to explore how to mass produce pluumo in Europe. This will involve automating various steps of the production and understanding how to wash poultry feathers from the food industry. We currently source pre-washed surplus duck feather from the down industry, although this is of limited available quantity compared to chicken feathers and also comes at a higher cost.

BELGIUM – DRIPL

Seeing as a large portion of the plastic waste consists of plastic bottles. My design should eliminate or at least shrink the usage of single-use plastic bottles. I was inspired by the large number of people who carry reusable bottles, now mostly used for water. For carbonated drinks there is no alternative for single use packaging (like the faucet for water) for people on the go. The main goal of my design is to dispense carbonated drinks that people on the go can take with them in their reusable bottle. To accomplish this goal, I designed a vending machine connected to the water supply. A Bag in Box (BiB) system, holding syrup and a water carbonator are used to create carbonated beverages. The BiB system consists of 80% recycled and recyclable cardboard. This, together with the environmental impact of more efficient transportation, results in a much more sustainable solution.

ITALY

Our project, named “ReciclaGaMe”, aims to eco-sustainably degrade polyethylene, thus innovating the concept of recycling and disposal of plastic waste through landfills or waste-to-energy plants. The mellonella Galleria moth, also known as wax Tarma Maggiore, has the peculiar ability to degrade polyethylene, the simplest among synthetic polymers. This feature is essential in the degradation process by the larva: polyethylene in fact has considerable similarities with myricin, a key component of beeswax, which is mostly formed by long linear chains of carbon atoms. The digestion process can be seen as the result of two steps: the first is the mechanical crushing of the polymer through the masticatory apparatus, in order to increase the surface exposed. The second step consists in the actual degradation of the plastic material inside the digestive tract of the camola; At the moment it is not yet clear whether the degradation activity takes place because of the presence of particular enzymes within the intestinal flora or whether it is a characteristic of the organism in its complexity. The final result of biodegradation is ethylene glycol, easily manageable from a disposal point of view. The organic residue is used as biomass for biogas production, through fermentative processes.  Applying the principles of the Circular Economy, we have devised a self-sufficient process able to guarantee a good conversion yield of plastic waste without energy consumption waste, making our process efficient and at the same time eco-friendly.

The value of plastic packaging is not fully exploited by society. Although plastic materials are highly durable and resistant, they are mostly converted into single-use packaging applications. The consequences are over-consumption, resource inefficiency, and environmental pollution. Refeel Good will redefine the concept of plastic packaging, promoting a reuse circular system where plastic’s economic value is maximised, and its environmental impact minimised.

PORTUGAL – Refeel Good

Refeel Good is an easy and convenient delivery refill system, where consumers use an app to request the refill of their everyday laundry and home care products. An 100% electric van will come to make the refill. In this system consumers will not be charged for packaging (the packaging is only charged if not returned), because packaging will be designed to be reusable. As consumers do not pay for packaging, they will have access to cheaper products. Also, Refeel Good app will use a gamification reward system to promote sustainable attitudes (e.g. recycling), rewarding individuals and their communities. Our laundry and home care products will be fully sustainable. Our packaging will be eco-designed, lightweight, easy to store and 100%-recycled-plastic made. Both product and packaging will be certified Cradle-to-Cradle.

Refeel Good will give a concrete answer to the plastic waste challenge. It will transform a traditional single-use product into a durable one. That would allow less trash, at the same time that reduces the need for new production. 

CROATIA – REPLAST 3D

We propose launching small social enterprises in local communities throughout the Republic of Croatia, for material mechanical recycling of the municipal and construction plastic waste and the production of primary filament (filling) for 3D printers, followed by  a variety of new products produced by 3D print techniques. With the project we want to contribute to solving the two of the greatest societal challenges at the same time: the environmental protection and huge and long-lasting unemployment of the harder-to-employ social groups. The idea came out of the need for secondary plastic waste disposal accumulated on the coast which threatens to severely pollute the sea; the need for high unemployment rate reduction of the lower education groups, especially those in less developed areas; as well as the need for development of the new, so called “green jobs”, which are still in deficit in Croatia.

According to the available data, still around 70% of waste is being disposed into waste dumps, only  30% is being reused, of which only 26% is being recycled. Only 15% of  municipal waste is being reused.  Clearly, it is necessary to increase the share of plastic reuse and recycling, which opens up great opportunities for the development of entrepreneurship in the sphere of circular economy, so-called green jobs, and the opening of new jobs. According to all indicators, social entrepreneurship is one of the key ways of including harder-to-employ  groups of citizens into the labor market, and with the   integrated and overall waste management system it is possible to double the number of jobs in a relatively short time.

SLOVENIA – RIS

Based on the study conducted by Joint Research Centre, single-use plastic is among the items most commonly found on European Union beaches and represent an estimated 50% of marine litter. In an effort to reduce single use plastic waste, we targeted shampoos considering it’s an everyday product used by the majority of the population. Keeping in mind shampoos are almost always packaged in plastic bottles, we thought we could innovate the way shampoo has been used over the past decades by developing a water-soluble material that we would fill with carefully studied and measured doses of shampoo for individual use. Reducing single-use plastic waste on one hand and avoiding product waste on the other. We believe that this idea can be implemented in both B2B and B2C environments. In B2B, we will target hotels, resorts, and/or accommodation places where they currently use single-use amenities. On the other hand, our approach towards B2C will revolve around creating a unique customer experience as well as raising awareness about the negative impact of single-use plastic products.

PORTUGAL – SPRAYSAFE

The SpraySafe technology is based on natural, sustainable and edible ingredients, namely plant extracts and biopolymers, that can be used to coat foodstuffs, thus reducing their oxidation, humidity loss and microbial contamination. It is available as a dipping or spraying solution, and can be applied on numerous foodstuffs. It challenges plastic waste by acting as a coating over foodstuffs, as a direct substitution of plastic wraps and plastic containers such as tupperware. Plastic wraps are a “single use” solution for food conservation and produce millions of tonnes of plastic waste yearly. Plastic containers, although being able to be reused, are also of plastic origin and produced in an unsustainable manner and when disposed also constitute a high load of pollution. Inversely, SpraySafe is natural alternative to plastic, developed with sustainable ingredients and with no impact on the environment after use.

LITHUANIA – PLASTOMOBILE

Plastic has come into our life as a commodity, that we can no longer imagine living without. It’s a resource – that must be used wisely and must be recycled. Education is fundamental in the issue of plastic waste. In targeting – the younger generation we could grow a generation of aware consumers. Youth – as the most pliable part of our society will be the one forming our future. Interactive exercise is the best way to educate youth. We want them to be included in the problem solving. In our plastic recycling workshop kids would make new items from their collected plastic waste. It’s important to shift their mindset from seeing it as a waste and recognizing it as a resource. Throughout the entire project the youth will be familiarized with the types of plastic and the different ways of recycling it. By participating in the project they will sort plastic and generate ideas about objects that could be made out of it to meet the needs of their community. The best ideas will be chosen through voting and the winning ideas will be made into reality. By traveling with the studio we will be able to reach smaller cities and towns where information about alternative recycling opportunities isn’t as easily accessible as in larger cities. Our goal is to spread this idea of an alternative plastic recycling workshop and bring together environmentally conscious and responsible communities who are able to reduce consumption, sort and recycle the waste into useful and durable objects.

SPAIN -VEnvirotech

VEnvirotech is a biotechnological start-up that produces two polyhydroxyalcanoate (PHA) bioplastics, called PHB and PHBV, using bacteria. They are similar in characteristics to polyolefins like Polyethylene (PE) or Polypropylene (PP) and also, PHB and PHBV, are biodegradable in the environment and compatible with human body. VEnvirotech produces bioplastics following three basic principles: 1. We use our own mixed culture bacteria for producing bioplastics. PHA-bacteria use PHA as an energy reserve so VEnvirotech’s technology provoke them to produce it constantly 2. We extract and transform bacteria’s bioplastic into PHA sustainable resins for different market applications 3. We feed bacteria with organic wastes such as food, wine, animal or sewage sludge waste. This way we go from waste… to value.

VEnvirotech achieves the transformation of the organic wastes into PHA bioplastics thanks to its own technology, that is installed where the waste is generated inside of a maritime container and which allows obtaining the PHA bioplastic in a one-day process. The process consists in organic waste pre-treatment, bacteria selection, PHA accumulation and PHA extraction. VEnvirotech creates a network of producers, all of them working with the same technology, which allows to standardize the final bioplastic product and put it back on the market as a material with high added value with a applications in packaging, biomedicine (prothesis or drug discovery) or 3D printing materials. Using circular economy and our own technology VEnvirotech can have a biodegradable bioplastic from organic wastes within the same price range as the petroleum plastic.

CLOSING REMARKS

  • Great initiative and Great projects. It won’t be easy to pick up a winner.
  • Here’s our selection:
    • Let’s go for bioplastics;
    • Something already existing;
    • Something that can be used in our day-to-day lives;
    • Something that doesn’t require one billion dollar in funding;
    • Something that people will be able to touch (it must be accessible to everyone)
    • A small structure;
    • Let’s support an Eastern European country;
    • A project that will help us fight plastic waste;
    • A project that can involve the local economy and maybe even the farmers;
    • My shopping list is long, but we found it. Our winner is

EVEGREEN from Slovenia

REFS

The Semi Finalists of 2019