5 out-of-the-box sustainability ideas: From gelatinised marine waste to seaweed straws

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5 out-of-the-box sustainability ideas: From gelatinised marine waste to seaweed straws

Marris Adikwu

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Marris Adikwu

Marris Adikwu is a freelance writer with a passion for internet culture. Her work has been published in Glamour Magazine, New York Magazine, Marris Adikwu is a freelance writer with a passion for internet culture. Her work has been published in Glamour Magazine, New York Magazine, Eater, and more. In her free time, she writes short stories.

A new generation of talented and sustainability-focused tech entrepreneurs are already dreaming up innovative ideas to shift our daily habits and tackle climate change.

Over the past five years, the Battle of the Minds competition has called on students and recent graduates from across the globe to pitch and develop novel solutions to some of the world’s most pressing social and environmental problems. Together, country based teams compete in a pitch competition for the chance to win funding from Btomorrow Ventures and the opportunity to join BAT’s Global Graduate Programme.

From making glue out of gelatinised marine waste to edible seaweed-based straws, here are a few of the weird and wonderful winning solutions that have sprung from the programme so far:

Bioplastic as alternative packaging

Reports estimate that UK households throw away a staggering 100 billion pieces of plastic packaging a year, averaging 66 items per household every week. The government plans to place a complete ban on single-use plastic from October 2023 including plastic plates, trays, bowls, cutlery, balloon sticks, and certain types of polystyrene cups and food containers.

With this in mind, UK-based Team FlexSea created proprietary technology that forms a bioplastic derived from seaweed. At the 2022 edition of Battle of the Minds, they explained that this could be used in packaging a wide range of products without reducing their quality or competitiveness. This idea earned FlexSea the winning position and a £50,000 investment to help get the solution to market.

Reusable food packs

In 2021, Mexico City banned single-use plastic in a bid to make the city more sustainable. As citizens adjusted to the changes, Team Erre created a reusable mug system that allows users to take away their food and drinks without generating single-use waste.

This solution was both environmentally friendly and encouraged return customers to the participating cafés. This earned Team Erre the second runner-up spot with £25,000 in funding.

Edible seaweed straws

In 2021, the top spot on the Battle of the Minds was awarded to Team Ijo from Indonesia, which developed eco-friendly, edible straws made of seaweed, that still maintained the look and feel of a regular straw.

In Indonesia, where 4.9 million tons of plastic waste ends up uncollected or dumped in open sites, each step we can take in replacing everyday items with sustainable, non-plastic alternatives will help in the country’s transition. The winning team received £50,000 to bring the idea to life.

Putting marine waste to good use

Egypt is said to be responsible for one third of all plastic that enters the Mediterranean, with levels of marine waste estimated to double by 2025.

It was against this backdrop that Team Egypt created a high-quality gelatine out of marine waste, to be used in the production of glue, photographic emulsions, and more. They clinched one of the runner-up positions in 2021, with a £25,000 investment.

Composting with cigarettes

Since October 2020, many parts of Eastern Africa have been experiencing long periods of drought, with intervals of short intense rainfall which often results in flash flooding.

To enhance plant growth in these volatile weather conditions, Team Kenya designed a system for recycling cigarette butts to make planters for urban farming and manure for cultivation. This also gained a runner-up position and a £25,000 fund.

Bring your idea to life

Do you have a weird or wonderful idea that could help solve the world’s current sustainability challenges? Battle of the Minds 2023 is now open for applications.

Participants can choose from one of the four challenges:

Tech: Ideas that leverage new technologies such as AI, augmented and virtual reality to create a sustainable world

Bio: Ideas to cut carbon in everyday life, from creating packaging alternatives to making farming more sustainable?

Energy: Ideas for innovating in renewables and capturing carbon

Inclusion: Ideas to drive inclusivity, for example tackling unconscious bias, using technology

No idea is too big — the competition welcomes your solutions to support local communities, think beyond borders, and contribute to a more sustainable future.

TNW Programs will be running workshops from 19 – 23 June, for all Battle of the Minds participants, sharing vital skills on how to grow their idea and become a profitable part of the tech ecosystem! Everyone registered before the 19th can attend.

Sessions include how to draft a value proposition canvas and a business model canvas, how to market, and how best to pitch your ideas.

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