The 1990s American TV series Captain Planet has come to life with these incredible planet-saving inventions. From artificial rhino horns to help eradicate poaching, old cell phones hiding in forest canopies to catch illegal loggers, to floating bins that clean up the ocean, there’s something magical about the planet saving inventions modern-day inventors are creating. Their powers combined with technology would make Captain Planet redundant.
Pembient: faux is better
Saving elephants and rhinos is something Pembient co-founder and CEO, Matthew Markus, is working hard to do, with the company’s goal being to stop illegal wildlife trade—a 20 billion dollar black market. The company is leveraging biotechnology to culture artificial rhino horns that are just as good as (if not better than) the real horn. And they are doing it at a fraction of the price, well below the levels that induce poaching. So, how is Pembient creating an artificial rhino horn so close to the real thing? The process involves adding rhino genetic code and DNA to yeast, creating a substance that is then used as ‘ink’ in a 3-D printer to produce a special synthetic keratin. In an interview with Quartz, Markus talks about the purity of the artificial horn: “We can produce a rhinoceros horn product that is actually more pure than what you can get from a wild animal.” That leaves us with a few questions, one of them being whether the purity of a faux horn can really save the rhino. Perhaps, but it’s going to take a lot more than clever marketing for an ancient perception and the value of the real horn to be disposed of. And, even if it does, there is then the question of the ability of authorities to detect the difference between the real horn and the faux horn. That said, flooding the market with faux horns may (eventually) lead to the downfall of the rhino horn as a status symbol.
Rainforest Connection: guardian angels in the trees
Topher White, the man behind Rainforest Connection, has found a way to halt illegal logging through the use of old cellphones. Recycled smartphones are transformed into autonomous, solar-powered listening devices that discreetly send alerts to local authorities the moment a chainsaw starts. These guardians of the forest can be hidden in the canopy and left there to wait on forest-eating human predators. In 2014, White and his team put the technology to test in Sumatra, Indonesia, and it was a success. Within two days of installing the devices around a chosen site, the team were alerted to illegal logging. They found that the devices were able to detect sounds up to a kilometre away, monitoring approximately 300 hectares of forest. The best part is, we can all be involved in turning tree-eating predators into prey by either donating to Rainforest Connection
or sending our old cellphones to Rainforest Connection
so that they can become future guardians of the planet.
Seabin: this isn’t an excuse to dump rubbish in the ocean
After years of seeing rubbish floating in the water of marinas, Seabin
founders, Andrew Turton and Pete Ceglinski had an idea: why not put a rubbish bin in the water? This led to the creation of a floating bin that with the assistance of a water pump forces water along with rubbish into the waste disposal unit. It’s an ingenious idea and a cheaper alternative to the costly and time-consuming garbage scow. The Seabin can collect a variety of rubbish, from bottles and paper to oil, fuel and detergent. Although only suitable for use in calm and controlled bodies of water such as marinas and ports, it’s a good place to start as the journey of rubbish often begins close to land, before it makes its way to the ‘big blue’. Turton and Ceglinski have big plans for their floating bins, including making future bins out of recycled plastic. “One of the goals is to make the Seabin from our own plastics to create another Seabin, to capture more, it’s a domino effect”, they explain. Improving the technology used to create the bins isn’t their only goal: the duo maintains that the Seabin is not the sole solution to keeping our waters clean. Instead, saying that it ultimately comes down to educating the public—something that is also a big component of their business. It’s a refreshing sentiment to hear in a world that’s so quick to supply life hacks and lazy solutions.
Bio-Bus: the power of poop or any waste for that matter
When we learned about a company that is harnessing the power of poop to generate energy for motor vehicles, we had to find out more. GENeco
is a recycling and renewable energy company dedicated to providing the planet with sustainable solutions to energy generation. Its Bio-Bus showcases the possibility of running public transport on human and food waste. But how on earth is it possible to run a bus on poop? The fuel used for the bus is a gas derived from food, sewage and commercial liquid waste. The process involves decomposing the raw material (poop) at 32-42 degrees celsius to get biomethane, a gas that is then scrubbed of impurities to produce a substance that has the same composition as natural gas. With the world producing over 1 million tonnes of poop per day
and 222 million tonnes of food waste per year
, this could be the solution to air and human waste pollution—making waste less wasted.