Where in the modern world is waste being repurposed to build?

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL December 4, 2021

It’s interesting to consider the way in which that particular breed of person, the innovation expert, addresses the challenge of the sustainable city in different parts of the world.

First up, Carolina Poza, an “innovation expert” who founded the Ecuadorean group Avanti Social Innovation. In a piece for apolitical, Ms Poza listed Skellefteå eco-town in Sweden and the recently announced Telosa city in the US as “empirical examples of smart and sustainable infrastructure”. I consulted that fount of all knowledge, Wikipedia, and found the only possible mention of Skellefteå’s eco-friendliness as follows: “It will become the home of a massive battery plant made by Northvolt by circa 2023”. There must be a great deal more but it’s not as easily found as one might have wanted.

As for Telosa, it has a beautiful and inspiring website. I too would want to live there, come 2030. But it is a work in progress and I couldn’t really see how or why it’s appropriate to take the breezy promises at face value.

More interesting and worthwhile then seemed to be the example of a sustainable city that Ms Poza’s own group is working on. That’s the Cacao Ecovillage, where as, Ms Poza writes, the cacao supply chain is meant to form part of the circular economy. She says: “About 80% of the cacao fruit is discarded in the cacao harvesting/refinement process. This waste includes: residual cacao pod from harvesting, residual pulp discarded from fermentation, cacao shells discarded from winnowing/extraction and waste water. The resulting biomass occupies large areas and raises environmental and social concerns.”

The cacao using pods, husks, and beans can be used to make new products, she says, not least “innovative food products, construction materials, medicines, cosmetics, bioplastics packaging, plant-based leather, among others”.

She goes on to write that Circular economy models should become a standard for policy design, sustainable infrastructure the standard for new cities and what we know as waste as a new valuable asset.”

This is true. What I’m not clear about is where in the modern world is it already being done. Not even in the Cacao Ecovillage, just yet, it seems?