To effect change on a global scale, we have to come up with new ideas and approaches that shift deeply-ingrained consumer habits. Along the way, we also have to rethink packaging, supply chains, and manufacturing.
Fortunately, the startup world is hard at work on the problem. Here are four innovative companies with solutions that promise to reinvent important sectors of our economy sustainably.
Algramo: Rethinking Packaging
More than nine million tons of plastic packaging find its way to the world’s oceans each year. The food and consumer packaged goods industries are responsible for a significant portion of this problem. It’s even more acute in impoverished sections of large cities worldwide, where products are often purchased at expensive corner stores.
Algramo is a Chilean startup which removes single use packaging through a combination of vending machines and an app-based delivery service. The company initially installed vending machines filled with bulk staples such as sugar, rice, lentils, and beans. The staples are sold by weight – by the gram – and at a significant discount to packaged food products. Since its launch in 2013, Algramo has collected a Fast Company “Most Innovative Company” award and expanded into a delivery service that refills common consumer packaged goods, such as laundry detergent and other cleaners.
The Littery: Shifting Citizens’ Disposal Habits
The Littery’s mission is to free the planet from litter and plastic pollution. The Riga, Latvia-based startup’s unique approach turns “litter into lottery tickets” through a combination of smart waste bins, a phone-based app, and cash incentives. The goal is to shift behavior towards sustainable waste disposal habits. Cities that partner with The Littery have seen waste reduced by more than a third, as well as significant cost reductions in maintenance, recycling, and waste management costs.
Hydraloop: Creating a Circular Approach to Water Use
Most startups would kill to win a “Best of” award at the venerable Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas each year. But this past January, Dutch water conservation startup Hydraloop won in four categories, including Best of the Best, CES’ highest startup award.
Hydraloop’s breakout year is driven by a singular insight: Climate change is driving a worldwide water crisis, and to adapt we have to shift how we manage nature’s most precious resource. Hydraloop’s suite of water filters install in homes and commercial buildings, quickly and safely recycling up to 85% of the “grey water” used in baths, dishwashers, and washing machines.
C16 Biosciences: Palm Oil Without the Farming
Palm oil is the most widely-consumed vegetable oil on the planet. It is found in a wide range of consumer and food products, from peanut butter to laundry detergent. But palm oil’s popularity has created unsustainable externalities, including the uncontrolled clearing of rainforests for conventional farming, and the widespread decline of endangered species.
New York-based startup C16 Biosciences has developed a process for manufacturing palm oil that literally “brews” the oil into existence – much like the fermentation process for beer. The company recently raised $20 million from a Bill Gates-backed venture firm to commercialize its technology.