- technology dissemination fellowship program
- visiting practioners program
- yunus challenges
2007 – 2013:
value from waste
clean hands for health and prosperity
affordable small-scale energy storage solutions
indoor air quality pollution
tuberculosis drug adherence
2012 muhammad yunus innovation challenge
WASTE: Put it to Use
Waste is annually produced in scales of tons on earth. In 2009, the US alone produced 161 million tons of waste (the weight of approximately 71,500 space shuttles). Reducing and reusing this waste would save resources that are otherwise lost. In developing countries, waste and waste systems most profoundly affect the poorest populations. Solid waste is dumped near slums, which has lead to an informal work sector of trash-pickers who live and work there. Even as wastepickers play a significant role in managing a community's waste, they are marginalized, exposed to toxic materials, and labeled as being “dirty.” In countries where waste management infrastructures do exist, only a fraction of the population gains the benefits, and incinerators pollute the air in areas where the impoverished reside. The poorer populations also utilize water sources that have been poisoned by trash. Half of the world's population (2.6 billion people) does not have clean sanitation facilities for human waste. Fortunately, there is potential for waste to be recycled, reused, or better managed. With the right level of organization and flow, waste can even be processed to generate income for underprivileged communities.
The 2012 Yunus Challenge calls for innovative solutions to gaining value from waste, including both systems and technologies for improvements in (but not limited to): solid waste management, biowaste, electronic waste, medical equipment waste, wastewater, and industrial scrap, as well as the well-being of wastepickers and their livelihoods. Solutions should be designed for implementation in communities living at or below the poverty level.
Click here for background about the 2012 Yunus Challenge
Key Considerations, Judging Criteria and Metrics
The needs of the poor are varied and teams are not expected to address all issues involved in deriving value from waste. However, proposed solutions should address a particular need and fill it well. Participants are encouraged to work on solutions with a specific community or region in mind, as this can be helpful in identifying constraints and providing context.
Solutions should be designed for implementation in communities living at or below the poverty level, where infrastructure is limited. Innovation, feasibility and impact will be important criteria in judging. Proposed solutions should be new, focus on measurable change, and aim for a price point that makes intervention accessible to the poorest populations and allows for dissemination on a large scale. Specific aspects to address include, but should not necessarily be limited to:
A scale-ready project is one that is primed for real-world deployment and one with potential applicability at the community-scale or larger. Successful projects must consider challenges in running an initial pilot, barriers to expanding to full capacity, and potential failure modes that may prevent long-term sustainability. How many people is it going to impact? How can it work in other countries, cities, cultures, etc.?
By its nature, much of waste has negative health impacts on those who come in contact with and manage it. Successful projects must define a health impact figure of merit for their project and propose and defend improvement targets of this figure. Successful projects must also propose methods of verifying progress to achieving their target. For instance, a project that addresses electronics waste (e-waste) recycling may define their health impact figure of merit as rates of exposure to hazardous chemicals borne by e-waste workers. An improvement target may consequently be a 40% reduction in exposure rates to lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), dioxins, and furans.
The environmental impacts of waste and waste management are varied, but generally fall into two large categories: resource impacts; and air, land, and water impacts. Successful projects must define at least one ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT figure of merit for their topic and propose and defend improvement targets for this figure. Some projects may include multiple figures of merit, drawing from one or both of the broad categories described previously. Successful projects must also propose methods of verifying progress to achieving their target. In the former category (resource impacts) are metrics of nonrenewable resource depletion, life-cycle material efficiency, source reduction and recyclability, etc. In the latter category (air, land, and water) are metrics of greenhouse gas emissions, water quality degradation, and land toxification.
Waste and waste management are closely linked to the quality of life of people and communities all around the world. Successful projects must articulate a positive livelihood impact. Successful projects will define a livelihood figure of merit, which should measure how the project increases, or empowers a community partner to increase, community income (or conversely, decrease operational costs). The figure can also refer to how a waste management technology or process increases the value of the community partner's work, by making it less labor-intensive without increasing its environmental impact. Saving time allows works to invest their time in other activities, such as education and training. Sample metrics include the per capita increase in daily income or increase in task productivity (measured as time / output), breadth of an educational component, and other measures of living condition improvement.
A crucial prerequisite to effective technology dissemination is that the project finds acceptability within the community in which it is being implemented. Successful projects must include adequate training and documentation to ensure the project is implemented, operated, and maintained properly. This also means learning more about the routines and cultures of the community where the project is being implemented. Does the project fit well with existing techniques, budgets, traditions, aesthetics, and other perceptions?
Follow-up from Garbage Dreams
On February 6, 2012, we screened the 2009 documentary Garbage Dreams. Following are some resources of interest for those hoping to learn more about the context
Areas of focus and preliminary reading
Wastepickers and Solid Waste
Medical Equipment Waste
Electronic Waste (E-Waste) / Manufacturing Waste
Websites of interest
What systems, technologies, and designs will change waste and help alleviate poverty? Create it! Enter the 2012 Yunus Challenge in one of these ways:
Interested participants may enter proposals into the IDEAS Global Challenge, where special awards have been created to provide winning teams with funding to pursue their ideas. For more information, please contact Kate Mytty or check the IDEAS Global Challenge website.
Students are encouraged to apply for Public Service Fellowships (PSC), Internships and Grants that provide them with the opportunity to work on a potential program and with communities to develop a feasible solution which takes local context into account. For more information, please contact Alison Hynd or visit the PSC Website.
In the fall of 2011, D-lab will hold its first class focused exclusively on Waste. D-Lab Waste provides a multi-disciplinary approach to managing waste in low-and–middle-income countries with strategies that diminish greenhouse gas emissions and provide enterprise opportunities for marginalized populations. The course, comprised of lectures, fieldtrips, and guest speakers, studies waste management strategies in cities in Africa, India, and Latin America; examines case studies of collection, recycling, and waste-to-energy businesses developed in low-income settings; and researches public policy that supports sustainable, integrated, solid waste management systems. Student teams develop waste management strategies that culminate in a two-week IAP trip to Nicaragua where students will work with a local NGO and the municipality, to assist in the implementation of waste management initiatives. For more information contact Libby McDonald.
NOTE: Yunus Challenge funding opportunities described above are available to MIT-students only. However, we are activly seeking strong partnerships with organizations working in any of the areas of focus. Contact us to tell us more!
- To enter the IDEAS Global Challenge enter an initial scope by January 25, March 2, and/or March 23rd
- February 23, 2012:IDEAS Global Challenge Generator Dinner 7 - 9 pm, Student Center, Lobdell (W 20 - 208)
- February 6, 2012: Screening of Garbage Dreams, 6.30 - 9.30 pm, Stata 32-123
- November 10, 2011: TRASH TALK: Yunus Challenge 2012 Generator Dinner, 7 - 9 pm, Coffeehouse Lounge, W20
- October 21, 2011: Deadline for IAP service fellowship and internship applications
- October 19, 2011:IDEAS Global Challenge Generator Dinner 7 - 9 pm, Morss Hall in Walker Memorial
For more information on the 2012 Yunus Innovation Challenge, please contact Laura Sampath or Bina Choi.