From gelatinized marine litter to seaweed straws

A new generation of talented and sustainability-focused tech entrepreneurs are already coming up with innovative ideas to change our everyday habits and tackle climate change.

Over the past five years, the Battle of the ghosts competition has called on students and recent graduates from around the world to pitch and develop new solutions to some of the world’s most pressing social and environmental problems. National teams compete in a pitch competition for a chance to win funding Tomorrow Ventures and the opportunity to participate in BAT’s Global Graduate Program.

From making glue from gelatinized marine litter to seaweed-based edible straws, here are some of the weird and wonderful winning solutions that have emerged from the program so far:

Bioplastic as alternative packaging

reports estimate that households in the UK throw away as many as 100 billion pieces of plastic packaging a year, an average of 66 pieces per household per week. The government is planning to complete ban on disposable plastic from October 2023 including plastic plates, trays, bowls, cutlery, balloon sticks and certain types of Styrofoam cups and food containers.

With this in mind, UK-based Team FlexSea created patented technology that forms a bioplastic derived from seaweed. During the 2022 edition of Battle of the Minds, they explained that this can be used in packaging a wide variety of products without sacrificing quality or competitiveness. This idea earned FlexSea the winning position and an investment of £50,000 to bring the solution to market.

Reusable food packages

In 2021, Mexico City banned single-use plastics in an effort to make the city more sustainable. As citizens adapt to the changes, Team Erre created a reusable mug system that allows users to take their food and drinks with them without generating single-use waste.

This solution was both environmentally friendly and encouraged repeat customers to the participating cafes. This gave Team Erre second place runner-up with £25,000 in funding.

Edible seaweed straws

In 2021, the first place in the Battle of the Minds was awarded to Indonesia’s Team Ijo, who developed eco-friendly, edible seaweed straws that still retain the look and feel of an ordinary straw.

In Indonesia, where 4.9 million tons of plastic waste is not collected or dumped in open areas, every step we can take to replace everyday items with sustainable, non-plastic alternatives will help transition the country. The winning team received £50,000 to bring the idea to life.

Making good use of marine waste

Egypt would be responsible for this a third of all plastic entering the Mediterranean Sea, with marine litter estimated to double by 2025.

It was against this background that Team Egypt created a high-quality gelatin from marine debris for use in the production of glues, photographic emulsions and more. They took one of the second places in 2021, with an investment of £25,000.

Composting with cigarettes

As of October 2020, many parts of East Africa are affected long periods of droughtwith intervals of short intense rain showers often resulting in flash floods.

To stimulate plant growth in these changeable weather conditions, Team Kenya designed a system for recycling cigarette butts into planters for urban agriculture and manure for cultivation. This also took second place and a fund of £25,000.

Bring your idea to life

Do you have a weird or wonderful idea that could help solve the world’s current sustainability challenges? Battle of the Minds 2023 is now open for applications.

Participants can choose from one of four challenges:

Tech: Ideas that use new technologies such as AI, augmented and virtual reality to create a sustainable world

Bio: Ideas to reduce carbon in everyday life, from creating packaging alternatives to making agriculture more sustainable?

Energy: ideas for innovation in renewables and carbon sequestration

Inclusion: Ideas to encourage inclusion, for example by tackling unconscious biases, using technology

No idea is too big – the competition welcomes your solutions to support local communities, think beyond boundariesand contribute to a lake durable future.

TNW Programs will host workshops from June 19 – 23 for all Battle of the Minds participants, sharing essential skills to grow their idea and become a profitable part of the tech ecosystem! Anyone who signed up before the 19th can participate.

Sessions include how to build a value proposition canvas and a business model canvas, how to go to market and how to best pitch your ideas.