Every year since 2005, SEED, a programme founded by the United Nations and IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), has rewarded social and environmental start-ups from emerging countries. For its tenth year, the competition rewarded 25 start-ups engaged in innovative sustainable economy projects and awarded a special prize to one of the 202 winners from previous years: Tambul Leaf Plates. We take a closer look at the start-up and two winning companies from 2015. Credit: Thinkstock – Ozphotoguy
Tambul Leaf Plates: replacing plastic with palm trees
Created in 2009 in India, Tambul Leaf Plates manufactures and markets disposable, biodegradable dinnerware made from fallen areca palm leaves. Its model has two main advantages. In environmental terms, no plastic or Styrofoam is used in the manufacturing process; the plates and cups therefore do not generate waste that is difficult to dispose of. In economic and social terms, Tambul Leaf Plates is committed to fair trade, sourcing its areca leaves from rural microenterprises. The company has stated that its business should eventually create over 1,000 microenterprises to supply it with raw materials . With this network of suppliers behind it, the company has a projected turnover of USD 20 million and estimates that it will replace around 1,000 tonnes of plastic and Styrofoam each year.
Hortinet – developing fairer agriculture in Malawi
In Malawi, Hortinet wants to unite small producers to supply markets with fresh, local products. The social company helps them to improve their productivity and reduce their water and fuel consumption, particularly through the use of optimised irrigation syste
o takes care of the collection, processing and packaging of their produce, so that it can be sold at markets via its distribution network. Hortinet plans to bring together 5,000 producers in 2016 and thus increase its production, with the aim of reducing the country’s imports of fresh products by 60%.
EcoBrick – an innovator in plastic recycling
After Guatemala and the Philippines, EcoBrick has invested in South Africa. The idea is as simple as it is ingenious: it involves filling PET bottles with plastic waste (bags, crisp packets, etc.). Once filled, the bottles become bricks for use in low-cost building construction or furniture making. In Guatemala, EcoBricks have been used in this way in the construction of 38 schools . The benefit to this approach, which also features numerous awareness-raising and training measures, is that it brings the local population and children together, who, in exchange for the bricks that they bring, receive gifts or discounts in local shops.
Credit: Thinkstock – Ozphotoguy