Worn Again: circular textile recycling technology for (almost) zero textile waste

1. Sustainability Problem: Textile waste

The U.S. EPA estimates that textile waste occupies nearly 5% of all landfill space.

While the EPA estimates that the textile recycling industry recycles approximately 3.8 billion pounds of post-consumer textile waste (PCTW) each year, this only accounts for approximately 15% of all PCTW, leaving 85% in our landfills.

The average US citizen throws away 70 pounds of clothing and other textiles annually.

Decomposing clothing releases methane, a harmful greenhouse gas and a significant contributor to global warming. There are dyes and chemicals in fabric and other components of clothing and shoes that can leach into the soil, contaminating both surface and groundwater.

2. Technology solution: Worn Again

Worn Again has been developing chemical recycling for over three years and through trials and lab experiments they are perfecting a process where solvents are used to selectively dissolve different types of textiles, recapturing them as a raw material, which can be used to make new clothes, thus being reintroduced into the supply chain as new. Within the Textile Sorting Project Worn Again is dedicated to achieving the shared goal of creating circular supply chains for textiles through collaboration and new technologies.

The tests for this new technology, which will be monitored by H&M and Puma, are built around separating and extracting polyester and cotton from blended fiber clothing. Another task will be to separate dyes and other particles from polyester and cellulose, which has always been a challenge when recycling. The raw materials that are recaptured can then be used to spin new fabric for clothes. This circular process will have an extremely positive effect on bringing down the need for virgin resources and as such reduces carbon emissions, as well as the use of toxic pesticides, chemical fertilizers or exhaustion of land for growing crops.

Worn Again isn’t the first to develop a textile-to-textile technology. In 2014, Swedish scientists developed a process to recycle cotton by shredding clothes to pulp and turning the substance into threads of viscose. The company responsible for making the pulp is now preparing its first fabric-recycling factory and teaming up with several entrepreneurs in the textile industry.

The stakeholders

  • The product developer (Worn Again)
  • The subsidizing companies (H&M, Puma)
  • Local governments / NGOs to foster usage of this product


  • The team is currently engaged in full time development of a circular recycling technology for the textile and clothing industry, working closely with its’ development partners, H&M and Kering Group’s Sports & Lifestyle brand Puma.
  • H&M and Puma have enough infrastructure to deploy the product worldwide with a strong marketing campaign. However, costs should be mitigated in order to make the products accessible and the process economically viable.
  • Consequently, support from NGOs and local governments is key to allow tax reduction on recycled clothing and recycling plant set-up in order to lower costs as present them as feasible alternatives.


GravityLight: power from the lift of a weight.

1. Sustainability Problem: Kerosene lamps

2.3 billion people across the world have unreliable or no access to electricity. Consequently, many african countries rely on kerosene lamps, which pose economic, health and environmental hazards.


2. Technology solution: Gravity Light

The set-up is pretty simple, the whole thing works a bit like a pulley – all you need to do is add 12 kg of weight to one end of the bead cord (this can be a bag of sand, rocks, whatever you like), and then lift that weight up by pulling down on the lamp attached to the other end.

Thanks to gravity, the weight slowly descends back down to the floor, transforming potential energy into kinetic energy as it drops. This kinetic energy then powers a drive sprocket and polymer gear train that lights up the LED as it goes. Once the weight gets to the floor, the light goes out and you need to repeat the process, but each pull provides you around 20 to 30 minutes of light, depending on how high you lift the weight up in the first place.



The stakeholders

  • Potential users and crowdfunding donors
  • The company (The GravityLight Foundation)
  • Retailers
  • Local governments / NGOs to foster usage of this product



  • The GravityLight Foundation has successfully gathered
    $400,927 USD (128% of the original goal) on July 18, 2015.  This enabled the plans to set up an assembly line in Kenya. First units should be available in 2016.
  • Support from NGOs, retailers and local governments is key to allow distribution of the GravityLight in areas with excess usage of kerosene lamps and/or limited access to electricity.



CampStove: Turn fire into electricity using wood

1. Sustainability Problem: Access to Electricity

2.3 billion people across the world have unreliable or no access to electricity. 550 million mobile phone users live off-grid and often travel long distances and pay high fees for charging.


2. Technology solution: The BioLite HomeStove

The BioLite CampStove generates usable electricity for charging LED lights, mobile phones, and other personal devices. Burning only wood, the CampStove creates a smokeless campfire that can cook meals and boil water in minutes. Setup is easy, fuel is free, and flames are hyperefficient with performance on par with white gas stoves.


The stakeholders

  • Users
  • The company
  • Retailers
  • Local governments / NGOs to foster usage of this product



  • The Biolite CampStove can be bought online, but only in North America and Europe. Key places like Africa are still off the distribution network.
  • According to their website,  the company aims to create distribution networks comprised of local BioLite teams and trusted partners to reach households that traditional retail models don’t.
  • Support from NGOs, retailers and local governments is key to allow distribution of the CampStove in areas with no connectivity and/or electricity.



MIITO – the sustainable alternative to the electric kettle

1.Sustainability Problem

In order to make a simple cup of tea, you end up overfilling the kettle. This wastes energy and water and also means you have to wait longer for it to heat up. Energy consumption because of the kettle water overfilling when boiling is far higher than what we would normally assume. According to Leyla Acaroglu during her 2014 TED Talk “One day of extra energy use [from overfilling electric kettles] is enough to light all the streetlights in England for a night.”

2) The technology

MIITO uses simple induction technology to essentially wirelessly transfer heat. Its base creates an electromagnetic field which will then heat any ferrous material on its surface, in this case the disc attached to the bottom of the rod. Once the rod is placed inside a vessel filled with  liquid, the rod’s disc will heat up and directly transfer heat to just the liquid in the vessel, contrary to microwave ovens.

By heating only the liquid you need directly in the vessel you’ll drink from, it avoids wasting extra liquid and use less energy to heat it. Induction technology is 80-90% energy efficient in heating liquids. Electric kettles are only 50-80% efficient, microwave ovens are around 43% efficient and water heated on a stove is only 16-27% energy efficient, when boiling the same amount of liquid. Amongst many others, it has won the James Dyson Award for its lean, simple, and sustainable design.

3) Stakeholders

  • Customers
  • Investors
  • Crowdfunders
  • MITTO, the developers of the product
  • Local governments

4) Implementation

  • The company has successfully run a Kickstarter campaign in 2015 where they gathered €818,098 pledged of €150,000 goal.
  • Since September 2015, the product is in its development phase.
  • Once the product is launched, targeted media campaigns should raise awareness on the product and make it available worldwide.
  • It would be desirable for local governments to encourage the use of this kind of devices by using some for of ‘sustainable’ labelling, as well as promotions.

5) References







1. Sustainability Problem

  • Humans produce 660 billion pounds of plastic a year, and the manufacturing process creates three times as much carbon dioxide by weight as actual plastic.
  • Plastic is mostly made of crude oil, which is collected mainly by fracking in the US. Fracking is associated with water pollution, earthquakes in non-sismic areas, and methane emissions.
  • Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the primary greenhouse gas emitted through human activities. In 2014, CO2 accounted for about 80.9% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from human activities.

Issues: Air Pollution, Carbon Dioxide emissions, Petroleum consumption, Fracking


2. Technology 

Typically, plastic is made by exposing hydro­carbons from fossil fuels to tremendous pressure and energy. Newlight’s first commercial plant, in California, captures methane generated by a dairy farm’s waste lagoon and transports it to a bioreactor. There, enzymes combine the gas with air to form a polymer. The resulting plastic, called AirCarbon, performs identically to most oil-based plastics but costs less—creating a market-­driven solution to global warming.

AirCarbon is able to meet the performance requirements of a wide range of applications, including applications currently using fossil fuel-based polypropylene, polyethylene, ABS, polystyrene, and TPU. AirCarbon™ can be used in extrusion, blown film, cast film, thermoforming, fiber spinning, and injection molding applications. For more information about specific functional properties, please contact Newlight.

Companies have already signed on to use AirCarbon in their products, including KI desk chairs (pictured), Dell computer packaging, and Sprint smartphone cases.


3. Stakeholders

  • Newlight Technologies (owner of the technologies)
  • Companies making plastic-based products
  • Policy-makers to promote the use of AirCarbon
  • Environmental NGOs to require policy-makers to demand sustainable plastic production processes.


4. Implementation Process

Founded in 2003, after 10 years of research, Newlight has developed, patented, and commercialized the world’s first commercially-scaled carbon capture technology able to produce high-performance thermoplastics from air and methane emissions that can match the performance of oil-based plastics and out-compete on price.

The company has already won several sustainability awards, as well as attended many environment and sustainability summits in order to spread the word and raise awareness. The list is too large to appear in this text but can be found here: http://newlight.com/news/


5. Sources:

IRRI Super Bags to reduce rice wastage


IRRI superbag. Image taken from http://lbtimes.ph/2011/tag/superbag/

1. Sustainability Problem

Rice production requires huge amounts of water consumption. It is estimated that all the rice land receives 35–45% of all the world’s irrigation water (which itself uses some 70% of all the world’s developed water resources). Consequently, being able to better store and stock produced rice will reduce the need for larger production, thus reducing the water footprint.

2. Technology Article Summary

The IRRI Super bag  is a farmer-friendly storage bag that allows cereal grains and other crops (e.g., maize or coffee) to be safely stored for extended periods. The Super bag fits as a liner inside existing storage bags (e.g., woven polypropylene or jute bags), thus making the principle of hermetic storage available to farmers and processors at low cost.

Relative to traditional storage systems, Super Bags have the following benefits:

  1. Extend the germination life of seed for planting from 6 to 12 months,
  2. Control insect grain pests (without using chemicals), and
  3. Improve the head rice recovery of stored grain typically by 10%.

Super bags reduce the flow of both oxygen and water between the stored grain or seed and the outside atmosphere. When properly sealed, respiration of grain and insects inside the bag reduce oxygen levels from 21% to 5%. This reduction reduces live insects to less than 1 insect/kg of grain without using insecticides – often within 10 days of sealing.

“Before, a 7-month storage caused my rice grains to break from moisture and pest infestations,” philippine farmer Manuel Luzentales Jr. recalls. “I tested the IRRI Super Bags on my harvest for the second planting season of 2010. After keeping my harvest in the IRRI Super Bags for 10 months, the seeds were 100% viable, and none were wasted.”

3. Organizational Stakeholders

  1. This work is funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC)-funded Irrigated Rice Research Consortium (IRRC).
  2. IRRI (International Rice Research Institute)
  3. GrainPro Inc.
  4. SuperGrainbag
  5. Agriculture stores
  6. Local governments
  7. Rice producers

4. Deployment

  1. This work is funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC)-funded Irrigated Rice Research Consortium (IRRC).
  2. The IRRI Super Bag is manufactured by GrainPro Inc. and is marketed as SuperGrainbag since 2012. IRRI, through its national partnerships, has verified the benefits of the IRRI Super Bag with tens of thousands of farmers throughout Asia, but acknowledges it is a challenge to bring the bags to millions of farmers in a commercial way.
  3. For this purpose, IRRI has initiated and is facilitating national Post-harvest Learning Alliances  that embrace public and private stakeholders who have an interest in and mandate to establish local supply chains for technologies. Through this Post-harvest Learning Alliance, IRRI is assisting in setting up and training local distributors for technologies such as the IRRI Super Bag.
  4. Key public stakeholder for this purpose should be local governments, subsidising the acquisition of IRRI super bags, which can now be bought in agriculture stores in countries like Philippines.
  5. Alternatively, local governments could issue tax reductions for local producers using the bag, and stores and distributors involved in the supply chain.

5. References

    1. IRRI super bag
    2. IRRI Super Bags to reduce rice wastage
    3. Super Bags to thwart rice wastage for Filipino farmers
    4. IRRI develops Super Bag
    5. Does rice really use too much water?

Row-bot: ‘Water Bug’ 3D-Printed Robot Digests Pollution, Converts it to Electricity

151123202802_1_900x600Row-bot with mouth open. Credit: Hemma Philamore, University of Bristol/BRL


Sustainability Problem:

Urban areas have the potential to pollute water in many ways. Runoff from streets carries oil, rubber, heavy metals, and other contaminants from automobiles. Groundwater and surface water can be contaminated from many sources such as garbage dumps, toxic waste and chemical storage and use areas, leaking fuel storage tanks, and intentional dumping of hazardous substances. Air pollution can lead to acid rain, nitrate deposition, and ammonium deposition, which can alter the water chemistry of lakes.


Areas of Sustainability:

Energy, Water, Pollution, Safety, Health



  • Inspired by the aquatic water boatman beetle, Researchers at the University of Bristol have created a 3D printed robot that can self-propel, or ‘row’, along the surface of lakes and ponds, consuming microbes as it goes. Since the row-bot is powered by the microbes it eats, it does not require any recharging, and has the potential to be used in environmental monitoring and water clean-up systems.
  • When it is hungry, the Row-bot opens its soft robotic mouth and rows forward to fill its microbial fuel cell (MFC) stomach with nutrient-rich dirty water. It then closes its mouth and slowly digests the nutrients. In the cell, bacteria digest organic waste, and produce carbon dioxide as a by-product, as well as the protons and electrons needed to get the electrical circuit in the cell flowing. When it has recharged its electrical energy stores the Row-bot rows off to a new location, ready for another gulp of dirty water.




  • For flotation, the machine has four little stabilizers. To move, there are two paddles in the middle of its body, which have flexible flipper joints to make sure they move efficiently and minimize drag. The row-bot paddles were made as a 3D printed composite structure with a rigid frame that supports an elastic membrane. This membrane can either stretch to increase paddle surface, or, thanks to an integrated hinge, change the angle of the attack on the part of the paddle that remains underwater during the recover story, thereby reducing drag and increasing overall efficiency. The researchers added that the rigid frame was 3D printed with VeroWhite acrylic based photo-polymer, whereas the membrane was 3D printed in TangoBlack.
  • In this design, the row-bot generated more energy than it needed to keep refueling itself. That’s huge, and it means in the future, the answer to waste in the water might be sprinkling robots into the stream, and waiting until they eat all the garbage.



Bio-inspired 3D printed Row-Bot cleans water surface as it ‘eats’ water bacteria

‘Water Bug’ Robot Digests Pollution, Converts it to Electricity

A row-bot that loves dirty water

Row-bot: An Energetically Autonomous Artificial Water Boatman

Urban Water Pollution



  • Environmental and electrical engineers and scientists
  • City governments
  • NGOs
  • Investors



  1. The results of this research were recently presented in a paper at the 2015 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) in Hamburg, Germany.
  2. The next steps will be to add monitoring, remote sensing, and control systems that would allow the row-bot to be used in environmental monitoring and clean-up projects. For example, they could be used to monitor lakes for pollutants or deadly pathogens, and if found, either deploy more row-bots or some other system to restore water quality.
  3. Investors should provide initial seed funding for converting the prototype into a production-ready tool.
  4. NGOs should enforce policy and regulation of water pollutant levels in city lakes and other water sources.
  5. City governments should issue public tenders for companies implementing water pollution solutions with focus on sustainable practices. This would allow companies funding projects like this one to have a market opportunity.