Rice for face masks and coconuts for building material? Eco-solutions for sustainable development

Wednesday, November 24th, 2021

The winners of the Elsevier Foundation Chemistry for Climate Action Challenge share their innovative approaches to waste and recycling.

2021 Chemistry for Climate Action winners banner
The winners of the 2021 Chemistry for Climate Action Challenge are Brenya Isaac of Ghana (first place) and Dinh Van Khuong and Pham Hong of Vietnam (second place).

Brenya Isaac collects coconut waste from street vendors in Ghana, converting it to building materials through the startup he co-founded.

Dr Hong Pham and Dr Dinh Van Khuong have found a practical use for another form of organic waste that has caused serious pollution in Southeast Asia.

Now, they’re being rewarded for their innovative research as winners in the 2021 Chemistry for Climate Action Challenge – previously the Elsevier Foundation Green & Sustainable Chemistry Challenge. Held in collaboration with Elsevier’s Chemistry journals, the competition draws thousands of proposals from early-career researchers around the world with an interest in green chemistry and sustainability science. Winners receive a €25,000 prize and 5 years of free access to Reaxys, an expert-curated cheminformatics solution.

The new focus on climate action supports UN Sustainable Development Goal 13 – Climate Action, which underscores the need to develop “effective climate change-related planning and management in least developed countries, including focusing on women, youth and local and marginalized communities.”

Ensuring that the Global South is a larger part of the climate research effort is an urgent issue: Global South countries collectively contributed to just 15% of net zero publications from 2001 to 2020 despite being most affected by climate change, as demonstrated in Elsevier’s new analytical report Pathways to Net Zero: the Impact of Clean Energy Research.

“For the first time, we focused on climate action because of the tremendous importance of this subject,” said Rob van Daalen, Senior Publisher for Green, Physical and Theoretical Chemistry at Elsevier. “Many young people are very worried about climate change: what we found really encouraging is that we received so many proposals, especially from young researchers. It was not easy to select the winners, but these two projects will make a significant contribution to reduced emissions and a sustainable future.”

“The Challenge also recognizes the pivotal role that women play in combating climate change,” added Ylann Schemm, Director of the Elsevier Foundation:

UN Women reports that globally, one fourth of all economically active women are engaged in agriculture, where they must contend with climate consequences, and also have the disproportionate responsibilities for collecting increasingly scarce water and fuel. It was important to us that projects submitted to the Challenge integrate a gender dimension to ensure a truly inclusive climate action response.


Read the full article on Elsevier Connect: “Rice for face masks and coconuts for building material? Eco-solutions for sustainable development“, Domiziana Francescon, 22 November 2021.