IKEA’s Billy © revolutionized the world of home furniture. The Waste Transformer is on its way to becoming the Billy © of the waste world, an all-in-one solution to the waste, sanitation, energy, nutrition and environmental challenges facing our cities. The Waste Transformer is a small-scale, high-impact set of urban furniture that folds open into a modular farm. The flat-packed model decentralizes the standard waste, food and energy value chain, turning organic waste into value on-site.

What’s your story?

‘Lara began with a simple question: Why do we transport waste from its source to then burn or dump it? Why not treat it as a resource, where it is produced, extract value from it, and then give that value back to the very producer? This question formed the foundation of The Waste Transformers BV: a young company on a mission to revolutionize the world of waste.
For this project, The Waste Transformers team partnered with architectural design firm FARBICations from Amsterdam. Light Africa Right in Nairobi provides us the local operational and management support. Our local urban farming experts are Hydroponics Kenya.’

“We’re on a mission to provide real solutions to leveraging end-of-pipeline organic waste as a driver of positive change.”

How did your project come about?

‘The source of inspiration for the project was two-fold. Firstly in Nairobi (like most places in the world) waste is wasted. We wanted to leverage this waste into a driver of positive change for communities. So that people will start taking responsibility for the way that they deal with their waste as it starts to nurture them back by giving them energy, access to refrigeration and food in way that is circular and very, very tangible.
The Waste Transformers have already developed an installation that is proven. For this competition we have set out to make a new line of urban furniture. Our solution makes local sense. Too many Nairobians experience energy poverty, and the current farm to fork journey in Nairobi is not smooth. We shorten it. Decentralize it. Energize it. Cool it. Grow it. Democratize it. On-site. It’s a waste revolution.’

What was your reaction to finding out your project had been selected?

‘We were absolutely delighted and honoured to have been selected for the Clean Energy Challenge. It also energized and lifted us. We listened carefully to the feedback given on the initial entry and set out to improve our second submission. We have also taken a look at all of the other submissions and are completely inspired by the creativity and ingenuity we have seen from around the globe. It gives us hope that climate change will not get the better of us. Our feeling is that: by bringing us all together, we can do this!’

In your opinion, why is creativity important in climate action and the transition to clean energy?

‘By 2035, half of the expected African population of 1.8 billion will be urban. Cities worldwide are responsible for 70 percent of the global energy use and 40 to 70 percent of CO2 emissions. The way cities are designed and planned impacts the amount of energy used. Healthy urban ecosystems, aimed at vitalizing the economy, increasing life expectancy, connecting people, improving resilience and creating circular material flows, need to be created if we are going to rise to 21st century challenges. This creates opportunities and demands creativity. Our design approach not only aims to implement sustainable energy, but to use the energy transition to create better cities through design.’

WHAT’S NEXT?

‘We’re on a mission to provide real solutions to leveraging end-of-pipeline organic waste as a driver of positive change. Key to our success is scalability. Firstly, we think big by going small. We want a Waste Transformer at every hospital, airport, hotel, marketplace and on every street corner. The Waste Transformers are new Plug & Play urban furniture able to upgrade the current urban infrastructure. Scalability lies in replicability. Secondly, our systems are modular and scalable to the amount of waste and area located. The modular approach ensures that we can roll-out multiple installations across Nairobi, creating a circular blueprint for African Megacities.’

Learn more at: www.thewastetransformers.com/

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