The intense aura of intelligence that permeates NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA seems to signal that it is the perfect place for USAID and our partners to kick off this week’s LAUNCH: Beyond Waste Forum. It is an incredible privilege—and, to be honest, a great deal of fun—to be at LAUNCH with a world-class group of experts and innovators. This impressive group that crosses many sectors and industry boundaries will spend the next three days focusing on breakthrough technologies and problems that address some of the world’s toughest waste problems.
USAID and our partners NASA, Nike, and the Department of State formed LAUNCH to showcase and support extremely high potential innovators addressing the world’s most critical sustainability challenges. LAUNCH: Beyond Waste is our fourth LAUNCH program cycle (previous cycles focused on water, health, and energy). After a rigorous application and vetting process, we selected nine innovators we believe will make an outsized impact on waste issues in both the developed and developing worlds. Through LAUNCH, we will spend the next six months working with them to accelerate that impact.
Waste is unfortunately one of the most neglected issues in international development practice. While many donors in our field have only a few programs worldwide dedicated to waste issues, the waste challenges developing world citizens, organizations, and governments face are daunting. In most major developing world cities and countries, the vast majority of municipal solid waste streams are not formally processed, while ‘eWaste’, medical waste, and agricultural waste streams (among others) often go unaddressed as well. At the same time, “untapped” waste streams represent enormous potential resources when waste-to-energy and “upcycling” or recycling methods are applied.
Many of our LAUNCH: Beyond Waste innovators are building thriving businesses and programs based on that very premise: waste is often a resource and an opportunity, not an unfortunate byproduct of modern life. This impressive group of innovators includes, for example:
Attero Reycling: India’s leading provider of “end-to-end” electronic and electrical goods e-Waste management services—likely the only such full service company in the developing world.
re:char: A leading developer and provider of ‘biochar’ operating in Kenya and the United States. Biochar is a carbon-negative charcoal that can be used as a charcoal substitute and as a powerful soil amendment, which boosts crop yields.
Sanergy: A provider of sanitation infrastructure for Nairobi, Kenya’s slums and of fertilizer and electricity from its byproducts.
You can see the full list of the LAUNCH: Beyond Waste innovators and descriptions of their innovations.
We are thrilled with the bright and diverse group of people who have joined the LAUNCH Council, which will advise the innovators. During the Forum, the innovators will engage in three days of collaboration with the Council, a group representing the waste, business, investment, international development, policy, engineering, science, communications, and sustainability sectors. We have assembled the Council to give individualized advice to the innovators and to form a network that can help accelerate their progress in the coming months. Check out profiles of the LAUNCH Council members.
Please follow the LAUNCH: Beyond Waste Forum this Friday and Saturday (July 20 and 21, beginning at 1 PM EDT/10 AM PDT) and participate right along with us. The Twitter hashtag is #beyondwaste and portions of the Forum will be streamed live. You can also view and participate in the live conversation about the innovations.
Visit LAUNCH to learn more.