Innovations That Matter

7 Sustainable Innovations in Response to Coronavirus

Innovation Snapshot

Combatting the coronavirus pandemic and creating sustainable solutions do not have to be mutually exclusive

As we’ve previously pointed out, one silver lining of the global lockdowns had been the initial positive effects on the environment, with one study estimating a 5.5 per cent drop in total global carbon emissions for the year, compared to 2019. 

But now there are fears that carbon output could increase beyond pre-pandemic levels, with some pointing to the 2007-08 financial crisis, when emissions dropped at first before surging back. China has already seen its cleaner, lock-down-period air negated by factories returning to action, and in the US, environmental regulations are being put on the back burner.

Elsewhere, the disposal of protective apparel like face masks is causing issues with recycling efforts, disrupting collection efforts due to health concerns and nonrecyclable masks, gloves, hand sanitizer bottles polluting our waters.

But combatting the coronavirus pandemic and creating sustainable solutions do not have to be mutually exclusive endeavours, and we have spotted the innovations to prove it.

Photo source Lost Stock

1. INITIATIVE SELLS UNSOLD STOCK TO SUPPORT UNEMPLOYED FACTORY WORKERS

British startup Lost Stock allows consumers to order clothes directly from textile factories in Bangladesh, preventing cancelled orders from ending up in a landfill. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, and respective closure of brick and mortar shops during the lockdown, many large retailers have stopped ordering from textile factories.  It is estimated that over two billion euros worth of orders have been cancelled and that several billion unsold garments are stored in warehouses.

Most textile factories are located in low-wage countries such as Bangladesh. With the textile industry accounting for nearly 85 per cent of Bangladesh’s exports, millions of workers have lost their wages. 

Read more about Lost Stock’s initiative.

Photo source Stykka

2. SUSTAINABLE CARDBOARD DESK OFFERS QUICK FIX FOR REMOTE WORKERS

After Denmark announced its national lockdown, some of the team at Stykka realised they didn’t have enough desk space to work from home. So, they designed the desk in just 24 hours, using only a laser cutter, cardboard and zip ties, and dubbing it the StayTheF***Home Desk. 

The desk is made from certified recycled cardboard, so once life returns to normal and people are able to go back to work, the desk can go into the recycling. 

Read more about the cardboard desk.

3. FASHIONABLE PROTECTIVE CLOTHING MADE FROM UP-CYCLED PLASTIC

Colombian clothes brand Maaji is selling fashionable virus protective clothing made from recycled plastic.

Since sisters Manuela and Amalia Sierra founded the brand in 2002, Maaji has been dedicated to leveraging the latest research to produce eco-friendly materials, fabrics and printing processes. In addition to this, they have planted over 100,000 trees and continue to lead beach clean-up efforts. 

Read more about this sustainable protective clothing line.

Photo source Serious Tissues

4. SUSTAINABLE TOILET PAPER RAISES FUNDS FOR THE NHS

 There was a time when purchasing toilet paper did not require any thought at all. Then came the coronavirus pandemic and the panic buying of toilet paper across the globe. Now, there is a new approach. Change Please, the social enterprise that works to provide an income for homeless people, has created a new brand of toilet roll called Serious Tissues. 

The Serious Tissues are made from 100 per cent recycled paper. Originally intended to launch in the summer and benefit the fight against climate change, the brand has launched several months early and changed its focus to the fight against COVID-19. All of the profit from the sale of the tissues will go to charities helping NHS staff and volunteers.

Read more about the Change Please initiative.

Photo source engin akyurt on Unsplash

5. RECYCLING COMPANY PIVOTS TO FACE SHIELDS TO SAVE JOBS

When the cardboard recycling and paper export business dried up, with borders closing around the world, Tanzania’s Zaidi Recyclers quickly created a new stream of work. Located in the port city of Dar es Salaam, the company had a thriving paper export business. Much of its recycled cardboard and other paper waste was sent to China and India. Once quarantines came into effect, company CEO Allen Kimambo had to act quickly to keep the company’s employees in work.

Read more about Zaidi Recyclers.

 Photo source Pentatonic

6. SUSTAINABLE CUTLERY SET MADE FROM RECYCLED CDS HELPS STOP COVID SPREAD

Single-use plastics are terrible for the environment yet, unfortunately, they can also help to prevent the transmission of COVID-19. However, a collaboration between design studio Pentatonic and the singer Pharrell Williams has produced an eco-friendly set of re-usable cutlery which hopes to encourage people to stop using single-use plastic cutlery.

The Pebble cutlery set is made partly from recycled CDs. The metallic layer of the CDs is removed and the plastic is then shredded and turned into pellets. Pigments are added and the pellets are heated and moulded into the plastic components for the Pebble. Other materials include recycled food packaging and stainless steel.

Read more about The Pebble cutlery set.

Photo source Air Company

7. VODKA MAKER DEVELOPS CARBON-NEGATIVE HAND SANITISER

After launching its carbon-negative vodka last year, New York City-based technology and lifestyle company, Air Co., has shifted its production to hand sanitiser, in response to the COVID-19 crisis. The company captures CO2 pollution, combines it with water to make alcohol, and then distils the final product using solar-powered equipment.

Read more about Air Co.’s pivot.