Currently, Chinese cities have a 25% share of the world’s municipal solid waste, where the majority of this waste constitutes organic waste. The Chinese Academy of Science and the World Wild Fund states that restaurants and schools are wasting about 33 % of the food they serve. China is using multiple strategies to deal with the issue: municipal landfills, incineration plants where the waste is burned and transformed into electricity (although this is facing difficulties due to moisture content), feeding leftovers to animals (but due to the risk of spreading pathogenic microorganisms, several Chinese municipalities banned this century-old practice) and transforming food in an anaerobic digestion process, thus producing biogas (but this is heavily underrepresented as practice). However, due to the large amounts of waste, China is looking to use a less traditional strategy in the form of cockroaches, an idea that has been piloted in the city of Jinan, inhabited by 9 million people. This “small” (at least in Chinese terms) city is contributing to the country’s waste problem with 6,000 tons of solid waste each day, and about 50-70 % of this is food waste.

There is an ever-increasing need for pioneering methods to reduce, reuse and recycle the products and materials around us. Innovative companies can help lead the way towards a circular economy (aimed at minimizing waste and making the most of existing resources), and a few seem to hold the key to a more sustainable future. To recognize these advanced solutions, the World Economic Forum and the Forum of Young Global Leaders, alongside their partners, have identified and awarded 11 companies, each active in this field. These companies represent the different sectors where waste management has often failed immeasurably. Whether by measuring food waste and studying the best ways to make reductions, or by turning the carbon in non-recyclable trash into gas that can then be used to produce biofuels, these companies’ innovations indicate a movement towards a circular economy.

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