Science and Exploration

NASA, Partners Announce Launch: Beyond Waste Innovators

By Keith Cowing
July 20, 2012
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NASA, Partners Announce Launch: Beyond Waste Innovators

NASA, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the State Department and Nike Inc. opened the fourth installment of the LAUNCH initiative Friday.
This year’s forum, which is being held at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., is called LAUNCH: Beyond Waste. It aims to identify and accelerate solutions in waste management, an immediate issue for astronauts aboard the International Space Station, as well as people around the world. The forum runs through Sunday, July 22.

The LAUNCH program identifies innovations poised to create transformational change in critical sustainability issues, connects LAUNCH innovators to leaders and advisors, and provides resources and guidance to accelerate the implementation of the technologies, businesses and programs.

For NASA, LAUNCH draws parallels between resource challenges humans face aboard the space station and on Earth. With no natural resources in the hostile environment of space, astronauts must generate, collect, store, conserve, recycle and manage their resources wisely. LAUNCH offers NASA’s problem-solving expertise to crucial conversations on sustainability-related topics with innovative problem solvers from around the world. It enables the agency to promote emerging, transformative technology to sustain and enrich the quality of life on Earth. The engineering approaches needed to solve many of the development challenges facing Earth are similar to those needed to overcome the challenges of long-duration human missions beyond low Earth orbit.

The innovators were chosen for this forum because of their groundbreaking technologies and programs that address a broad range of waste issues, including waste-to-energy; eWaste, which includes discarded electrical or electronic devices; upcycling, the process of using waste to create new materials; recycling; agricultural waste and conservation; medical waste; sustainable chemicals and materials; and improved sanitation.

The LAUNCH innovator organizations are listed below.

— Attero Recycling (India): Nitin Gupta – India’s leading provider of end-to-end electronic and electrical goods e-Waste management services.

— Goonj (India): Anshu Goonj – A grassroots Indian non-governmental organization focused on transforming and revaluing clothing and textiles waste by working on these issues directly at the community level.

— Kiverdi (US): Lisa Dyson – Provider of a bioprocess that recycles waste carbon into sustainable oils and chemicals for a wide variety of applications such as biomaterials, detergents, and fuel additives.

— Pylantis (US/Japan) Jeff Toolan – An advanced biomaterials manufacturing company whose non-toxic, biomass-based materials replace traditional plastics in a variety of applications.

— re:char (US/Kenya): Jason Aramburu – A leading developer and provider of biochar, a carbon-negative charcoal that can be used as a charcoal substitute and as a powerful soil amendment which boosts crop yields.

— Recyclematch (US): Brooke Farrell – An online global marketplace for recyclables and waste byproducts for the more than $500 billion market in materials trading.

— Sanergy (US/Kenya): Joseph Atnafu – A provider of sanitation infrastructure in Nairobi, Kenya, and of fertilizer and electricity from its byproducts.

— SeAB (United Kingdom): Sandra Sassow – A renewable energy and waste-to-energy company that provides compact, easy to install anaerobic digesters, a scalable solution for addressing food waste and other bio wastes directly at the site.

— SIRUM (US): Kiah Williams – Provider of a technology platform that manages donations of surplus medicines, with the ultimate goal of zero medical waste.

During the 3-day forum, LAUNCH innovators will discuss their most pressing business and program issues with LAUNCH Council members, who represent the business, waste management, investment, international development, policy, engineering, science, communications and sustainability sectors. The sessions are designed to identify key challenges and opportunities for the entrepreneurs’ innovations in an effort to accelerate more rapidly their solutions toward even greater real world impact.

NASA, USAID, Nike Inc. and the State Department are LAUNCH founding partners. Additional partners for LAUNCH: Beyond Waste include are the Office of Naval Research, Vestergaard Frandsen, IDEO, a design and innovation consulting firm, and Architecture for Humanity.

The partners all contributed to planning the forum, selecting innovators and recruiting other event participants. A list of the innovators and innovations will be available online before the forum at:

The public may access and engage in the Launch: Beyond Waste conversation online through MindMapr at:

A link to live video of the conference will be on UStream at 10 a.m. PDT (1 p.m. EDT) July 20 at:

For more information about NASA and agency programs, visit:

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.