What is in this article?:
The LAUNCH program seeks to map out the future of waste handling.
The LAUNCH program, a think tank devoted to cultivating innovation in sustainability, began in 2010 as a joint effort of the Washington government bodies U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), NASA and the U.S. State Department, and private-sector firm Nike Inc. of Beaverton, Ore. LAUNCH (www.launch.org) tackled water, health and energy before holding the “LAUNCH: Beyond Waste” conference in July, focusing on solid waste, says David Ferguson, deputy director at USAID’s office of science and technology. He was part of the team that organized the conference.
“The program is designed to identify and accelerate innovation,” Ferguson says. That’s done through a three-step process. The organizers first identify innovators and whittle the group down to about 10. Then they are brought together at the conference with a group of 40 councilors — accomplished individuals from all walks of life, including government, private sector, non-governmental organizations, marketing and sales, and technology. After the two-day meeting, the councilors work with the innovators for six months to develop the concepts that came out of the forum.
“That clearly is our intent with this program, to work with innovators and council members that have the networks and resources to help them figure out how to implement their ideas and scale them quickly,” Ferguson says.
The waste forum finalists were chosen for their “groundbreaking technologies,” as the LAUNCH website describes them, focused on a variety of waste issues, including waste-to-energy, electronic waste, recycling and upcycling, agricultural waste and conservation, medical waste, sustainable chemicals and materials, and improved sanitation.
“We’re looking for 10 game-changing innovations that have the potential to transform the world in this area of waste,” Ferguson says.
It’s truly a global project. There are actually nine waste innovators in the program, representing India, Japan, Kenya, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States. One proposed innovation matches surplus medication with those who need it to avoid unnecessary disposal of that material. Another proposal seeks to transform textile waste by intervening at a community level. Meanwhile, a provider of a bioprocess that recycles waste carbon into sustainable oils and chemicals is working to find applications such as biomaterials, detergents and fuel additives. One of the innovators from Kenya has developed a franchise toilet approach to limit and contain human waste and generate products.