Mayor of London Carbon Entrepreneur participants

Challenges

Are you looking for some inspiration or for an idea of a problem that needs solving?

To give you somewhere to start, we've identified some environmental challenges facing London.

With big supermarkets like Iceland pledging to make their own-label products plastic packaging free by 2023 there are going to need to be lots of changes in the way things are done. Can you come up with an innovation solution by either reducing the amount of packaging used to protect the products or by developing a new, recyclable material that can be used instead? Watch the video below to see what alternative materials are being used in other countries around the world.

This zero-waste packaging is made from bamboo

If our featured challenge doesn't appeal to you,have a look at the other ones we have identified below. 

These are only some of the issues that we face in London, so we still welcome all other ideas to make London a better place to live.

Carpets

In London 21,250 tonnes of carpet waste is produced each year with 72% of this going to landfill. Carpets are heavy and bulky and many local waste centres don’t choose to separate out carpets as the methods of recycling currently available don’t add up financially.

Can you find a solution?

Additional information and stats:

Delivery packaging

More shopping is being done online than ever before. The things we buy need to be delivered safely to us but often arrive with many layers of packaging that has to be disposed of. This packaging also takes up space in the delivery vans making them make more trips.

Can you fix the packaging for something you have ordered?

Additional information and stats:

  • Globally only 14% of plastic packaging is recycled with the rest (worth over $80 billion) only used once. 32% ends up in the natural environment where it can take hundreds of years to breakdown.
  • New plastics economy on Ellen MacArthur Foundation website
Domestic CHP

Lots of homes have been installing biomass boilers to burn wood and other fuels for low carbon heat and sometimes power. Each one is small but does create particulate matter (PM) air pollution and when they are all added together this can reduce air quality.

How would you solve this?

Additional information and stats:

Fuel poor no more

In 2015 there were 335,201 households living in fuel poverty in London. The physical and mental impacts of living in a cold home are causing acute suffering for many Londoners.

How would you link the energy and health discussions? A new product? A better way of assessing the situation?

Additional information and stats:

  • Children living in cold, damp and mouldy homes are almost three times more likely to suffer from respiratory illnesses.
  • It is estimated that between 2011 and 2016 there were 13,390 excess winter deaths in London, with 10% of these deaths directly attributable to fuel poverty.
  • Fuel poverty health inequalities (PDF)
Green fashion

Clothes are an everyday necessity, yet the way clothes are made and used is wasteful and polluting. In a new textiles economy, clothes would be designed to last longer, be worn more, and be easily rented, resold or recycled, and no toxic substances or pollutants would be released during their production and use.

How would you make fashion greener?

Additional information and stats:

  • Every second, the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or burned.
  • An estimated USD 500 billion value is lost every year due to clothing that’s barely worn and rarely recycled.
  • Washing clothes releases half a million tonnes of plastic microfibres into the ocean every year, equivalent to more than 50 billion plastic bottles.
  • Ellen MacArthur Circular Fibres Initiative
Mattresses

Mattresses are heavy and bulky to dispose of. When recycled they are often broken down into their component parts individually by hand.

Can you design a better mattress or way of reusing their components?

Additional information and stats:

Office furniture

As businesses take on more staff and change how they use their offices they often need to refurbish or change how spaces are set up. Only 9% of office furniture is reused when a company gets rid of it.

What would you do with it?

Could you reduce the need for always having completely new furniture?

Additional information and stats:

Public recycling

Coffee cups have been in the news a lot in the last year but still only 1% are recycled. Progress has been made but more could be done, especially as "on the go" recycling in the UK often isn't used in the ideal way.

Could you design a coffee cup that could be put into recycling bins that are already on the streets?

Could you make it easier and clearer for people recycling on the go?

Additional information and stats:

Private water

Average water use is currently 160 litres per person per day. Water demand is set to outstrip supply in London by 2025. With more droughts expected this will be even more of a challenge.

Could you design a solution?

Additional information and stats:

Public water

We need to increase access to tap water "on the go" in London. This has been linked to a need to decrease the use of single use plastic bottles. Infrastructure costs in London can be very high and this makes it harder to keep access to tap water free or very low cost.

Can you find a solution?

Additional information and stats:

Really smart meters

Smart meters are being rolled out for the benefits they can bring to energy consumers and the energy system in Great Britain. However, as they record and transmit energy usage data in almost real time there is also the potential to use this information to create other benefits including for health and care applications.

How would you use this data to help people?

Additional information and stats:

  • The British government has set the aim to have smart meters installed in every home by 2020.
  • There is increasing evidence that living in a cold home is associated with poor health for all age groups.
  • Smart energy GB Energising health report
Recycling in flats

On average 50% of London’s population live in flats, with some areas being as high as 80%. Flats often have a lack of storage space for recycling and residents have to carry their recycling to a central collection area creating the challenge.

Can you design a solution?

Additional information and stats:

  • Research has shown that currently even flats with well established recycling services and communal collections still have around 50% less recycling than average low rise properties with a kerbside collection.
  • WRAP Guidance for Recycling Collection in Flats
Refrigerated trucks

Nearly all large (HGV) refrigerated trucks have a second diesel engine to power the cooling needed to keep food safe while it is transported. Whenever the doors are opened the truck must be cooled again. The engines, drivers actions and truck rig designs all add to emissions and so reduce air quality.

Can you find a way to reduce their emissions?

Additional information and stats:

  • Emissions from these second engines don’t currently have to be declared and regulations on efficiency are limited but being improved.
  • The engines are also allowed to use red diesel which is not taxed so there is no financial reason for companies to push efficiency.
  • There are 26,000 large refrigerated trucks in the UK.
Secret energy

Energy is used for almost everything we do but mostly we don't think about the energy, just the activity we are doing. Energy performance certificates for homes and electrical appliances help give us some information but only cover those few types of decisions and appeal to people in a very limited way.

How would you help people use less energy and live well everyday without focussing on energy?

Additional information and stats:

  • This year Londoners will spend over £3.9bn on heating and powering their homes.
  • Non-renewable energy production releases carbon dioxide, a key greenhouse gas and contributor to climate change.
  • London aims to be a zero-carbon city by 2050.
  • Sell the sizzle (PDF)
  • Meeting Carbon Budgets - Closing the Policy Gap
Tyres

Car and truck tyres are hard to recycle. One reason for this is they pick up chemicals from the road and vehicle emissions as they are being used. They also shed small pieces of rubber onto the road that creates particulate matter (PM) air pollution.

Could you find a better way to recycle them or make a stronger tyre?

Additional information and stats: