After over two months of preparations, Island Climate Initiative with funding from USAID and in collaboration with the National Innovation Agency, John Keells X and MAS Foundation for Change, successfully hosted a Demo Day and Innovation Trade Show dedicated to unveiling groundbreaking solutions to address the pressing issue of single-use plastics – the first of its kind in Sri Lanka
The event, held on September 14th at The Stables, Park Street Mews, was attended by renowned dignitaries and industry leaders who are committed to sustainable initiatives in Sri Lanka.
The highlight of the evening was the culmination of the Plastic Innovation Challenge, an initiative launched by Island Climate Initiative and its partners in May 2023. This challenge was part of a project funded by the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Clean Cities Blue Oceans program, a global project operating in Sri Lanka and six other countries working to identify solutions to plastic waste issues.
With Sri Lanka generating over 900 metric tons of plastic waste daily, of which only 4 per cent is recycled, the majority ends up in landfills or unregulated dumps. Such plastic waste enters waterways, eventually finding its way into the ocean, impacting aquatic and marine life, and contaminating food chains that affect both land animals and humans. As a response, the Plastic Innovation Challenge was launched to empower Sri Lanka’s young entrepreneurs to innovate themselves out of the plastic problem.
Over 150 innovators responded to the call-out launched in May and after a rigorous assessment, seven applicants were selected to participate in a comprehensive two-month incubation program that helped them further develop their enterprise towards successful commercialization.
During the event, a wide array of innovative solutions was showcased, including biodegradable alternatives to single-use plastics made of organic waste, non-recyclable plastic waste management systems, and portable machinery to decentralize plastic waste processing.
Four finalists who were selected by a panel of distinguished industry experts, pitched their ideas and technologies to an audience comprising potential investors, consumer goods companies, industry leaders, government representatives, and USAID delegates. These innovators will now have the opportunity to collaborate closely with industry partners to bring their solutions to market, addressing the issue of single-use plastics in Sri Lanka. Two of the innovators received financial support for product development from Coca-Cola Beverages Sri Lanka Ltd and Laugfs Eco Sri Limited.
The event featured a trade show that showcased technologies and products from already commercialized solution providers from Sri Lanka. This exhibition aimed to introduce currently available solutions addressing single-use plastics to consumer goods companies.
Additionally, an insightful panel discussion titled “Reducing, Recycling, and Repurposing Plastics: Opportunities and Challenges in the Journey from Innovation to Commercialization” took place. The discussion was moderated by Thilina Weerasekara, Head of John Keells Research, and featured a distinguished panel of experts including Prof. Ajith de Alwis, Chief Innovation Officer of the National Innovation Agency; Sharika Senanayake, Director of MAS Foundation for Change; Anosha Koralage, Head of Sustainability at John Keells Holdings; and Hasanka Padukka, Co-Founder of Thuru and Zerotrash.
“USAID recognizes the importance of promoting and advancing innovative solutions to plastic pollution,” said Christopher Powers, director of USAID Sri Lanka’s Office of Economic Growth. “This is not only for the obvious positive impact on the environment but also because the growth of these innovative businesses will help drive economic prosperity.”
This event aimed to inspire and motivate local entrepreneurs and innovators to step forward with their products and ideas, while also fostering collaboration between corporates and industries to embrace innovative solutions for pressing environmental challenges.
Finalists of the Plastic Innovation Challenge with representatives from Island Climate Initiative and partner organizations