THE PLANET CALLS – A strategic approach on marine microplastics
Leslie Maliepaard: Entrepreneur, angel investor and marine conservationist. Leslie is the Founder and Venture Partner at Fortrino, (Dublin). Focused on supporting innovation and growth strategy for high-potential startups. Her background is lean startup, commercialisation and fund-raising as well as financial management, business development and investor relations.
In 2019, she launched an Irish non-profit organisation, The Planet Calls, with her business partner Amour Setter. In addition to this Leslie serves the World Business Angels Investment Forum as the Senator for Ireland and sits on the board of WBAF Global Woman Leaders Committee.
She recently did a Tedx talk in Luxembourg on the subject of making small changes in her own life to help reduce waste we generate which in turn will minimise plastic pollution in the oceans. Watch it here
BIOMARINE. Can you briefly give us a bit of background information on how The Planet Calls was created? That is, what it is, when it was created and by whom? What was the greatest motivation and what is the main goal?
LESLIE MALIEPAARD. On my walks along the Irish beaches and rivers, I couldn’t help but notice the growing pollution crisis that seemed to be going unnoticed in the country and how it was severely impacting our waters. I started picking up litter by myself. When I realised the problem wasn’t going away I decided to do something about it by raising awareness around the pollution crisis and how we as individuals can start making small changes that would make an impact on a broader scale.
I realised quickly that the human race could not continue on the trajectory of using natural resources because, as we deplete these resources, the environmental crisis will continue to escalate worldwide. Since my business partner, Amour Setter and I are close to the startup and investor ecosystem we became aware of the ever-increasing trend of sustainability startups and SME’s coming onto the market. These startups have exciting Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) innovations and technologies that need funding for sufficient runway to take their research and development to commercialization and scaling stage.
Towards the end of 2019, we founded our non-profit The Planet Calls and dedicated our time to supporting and growing ESG innovations that would advance the production of renewable energy and sustainable bio-based resources. We turned our focus to the planet and started to figure out how we could put the planet and people first whilst at the same time making sure profits were not affected for the stakeholders of companies. We founded this non-profit accelerator, research and technology organisation because we are committed to enabling advancements in sustainability.
We hope that we can get sufficient support from the Irish government to continue to support innovations and create economic opportunities for the country.
We are surrounded by an incredible team of people. Amour Setter, my business partner and co-founder is an Entrepreneur, Sustainability advocate and Influencer. Amour is the Founder and CEO of Kukhula-Tech, in Prague. Through Kukhula-Tech (kukhula means "growth" in Zulu) they focus on bringing investment opportunities to investors in the tech space through private gatherings, investment summits, private introductions/match-making services, and tech event production.
Her background is Investor relations, Networker, Connector, Event Producer, Published Author & former Film & Advertising Producer. Amour has worked globally and cross-culturally in several countries (Africa, Middle East, Southeast Asia, USA, and Europe).
Our core team consists of a dynamic entrepreneurial duo, Felipe Lodi and Thalita Figueiredo who handle our marketing and public relations. Also based in Ireland and with extensive international experience, their expertise encompass Entrepreneur Branding/Marketing/Storytelling. This team produced and directed The Planet Calls Independent film for us.
BIOMARINE. You released an environmental movie. Can you tell us a bit more about it and the motivation behind it?
LM. We premiered our The Planet Calls movie on the 1st April 2020. We produced the film as a proof of concept to raise awareness for the Blue Growth sector (marine plastic) as well as to explore some principles and SME’s solving Sustainability challenges.
This independent film was produced by our team and some other strategic associates who we work with through The Planet Calls. It explores what we can be doing to crush plastic waste to help clear the oceans of pollution.
We are now focusing our efforts on distribution and marketing of the film by speaking to broadcasters, crowd funding platforms, public relations agencies as well as film festival organisers. We are also seeking out pledges from corporates that would like to back the film as part of its corporate responsibility activities.
BIOMARINE. Besides raising awareness, we understood that The Planet Call has a strong practical and solution-oriented side to it by catalyzing businesses that are dedicated to mitigating the plastic pollution through a Business Accelerator. Can you give us a bit more information on this? What is the kind of business (and their level of development) that can count with your support?
LM. While progress has been made on waste and resource management, it is still not enough and we need to move faster and further. Away from linear, away from recycling, moving toward circular economy. By closely working with corporates and their innovation teams, our objective is to work off the European Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) blueprint to co-create sustainable economies and networks in service of the Planet. By so doing the corporation gets to pursue societal goals, specifically those relating to sustainable development — environmental protection, social justice and equity, and economic development whilst still making sure it delivers on profitability.
The Planet Calls is a sustainability accelerator aimed at identifying and commercializing innovative startups that solve global environmental challenges. We also connect these startups to Industry-led businesses to innovate for a better world. We currently have just over 1000 cleantech and sustainability startups on our database with whom we can work with to accelerate corporate innovation for a sustainable future.
Our main focus is on the following sectors: Blue Growth, Waste & Recycling, Plastics & Polymers, Clean water, Low Carbon Mobility, Sustainable Manufacturing, Sustainable Construction, and Circular Economy.
With the operational structure that our Dutch partner, WorldStartup, provides we offer a global entrepreneurship platform that supports impact startups and intrapreneurs from idea to scaleup. Together we will mobilize the entrepreneurial spirit of Startups, corporates, research institutions, governments and investors to build the next generation of impact-driven businesses. WorldStartup helps startups and scaleups to meet global challenges by providing tailor-made support, access to capital and access to our ever-growing network.
BIOMARINE.Can you tell us a bit about the Projects or Business that you have supported or are supporting right now?
LM. The Planet Calls is constantly on the lookout for the next undiscovered technological solution that will solve a big environmental challenge. Our team prides itself on fast and effective problem solving. Since the Covid19 virus outbreak, hand sanitisers have become one of the world’s most sought after products.
Let’s use Ireland as an example. The adult population stands at approximately 3.7million people. If everyone uses 1 small bottle of hand sanitiser per month this would equate to a production of over 44 million plastic bottles per year. Instantly the challenges surrounding recyclability of these bottles and the enormous problem of plastic waste brought us to the realisation that the impact of this waste will prove detrimental to the environment.
Together with our merchandising partner, we are promoting a first of its kind ‘greener hand sanitiser’ made in Ireland in an Irish distillery. It's 63% alcohol, manufactured according to HSE recommendations, kind to your skin, and comes in refillable, reusable brandable silicone bottles. Silicone is an incredibly sustainable material. It's durable, kind to the oceans and made from oxygen and sand with no nasty fossil fuels which means it’s much kinder on the environment than plastic. When burned, silicone reverts back to its harmless ingredients: amorphous silica, carbon dioxide, and water vapour (unlike plastic which releases toxins when burned). We are offering this product in bulk only to companies that have a large staff count and would like to ensure and promote health and safety in the workplace. The hand sanitiser comes in 5 litre jerry cans that are refillable and reusable. In Ireland, we also offer to take back the bulk packaging, to refill and reuse. Bulk packaging is important in order to cut down on plastic waste created from small hand sanitiser bottles.
Another great project on our portfolio that we love to talk about is about a Tanzanian based Startup Dunia Designs, founded by two Irish entrepreneurs from Cork. Dunia Designs recently won the World Business Angel Forum Startup Award in Istanbul in February 2020 at the WBAF Congress. Their business is focused on developing an economy for secondary raw material produced from waste. Dunia process all types of plastic waste and convert it into plastic lumbar which is then used to make beautiful designer furniture.
The Planet Calls was instrumental in facilitating the introductions as well as the preparation of the pitch to receive the funding Dunia were seeking. We have been working with Dunia Designs since July 2019, helping them with developing, refining, and promoting their business. We have also introduced them to key industry players and brought them into an EU Consortium to submit a H2020 proposal to help solve marine plastic pollution.
For more information on the recent partnership agreement between The Planet Calls and Dunia Designs click here :
BIOMARINE. You have recently formed an EU consortium for a H2020 pilot project to solve marine plastics. Can you tell us a bit about this project, what it aims to accomplish and what you are looking for?
LM. Last year we formed the consortium with 16 members from Europe for a H2020 pilot project to solve marine plastic pollution and we submitted this proposal in January 2020. The project we proposed uses robotics, AI and IoT that will extract marine plastics and litter from any waterbody. Using a remote controlled and autonomous device, which is an underwater drone that will detect and map underwater litter.
Four large European rivers are responsible for plastic litter entering marine environments that discharge into different regional seas; these important European rivers with respect to discharges are: Rhine, Dalålven, Danube and Po. In short, we focused on selecting demonstration sites that were downstream from these rivers for the greatest impact in terms of waste collection. To sum up our mission, we are looking at how we can depollution the Mediterranean Sea, North Sea, Baltic Sea and, Black Sea the Bothnic Gulf. For this specific project we selected three demonstration sites that will participate in the project in coastal communities, tourism, shipping (including fishing vessels and recreational craft.)
Without drastic change, by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. Oceans are at a critical pollution level. Each day we are seeing signs of this growing crisis: whales are dying with plastic balls found in their stomachs, sea turtles are getting tangled in discarded fishing nets; sea bird young are found dead with their stomachs filled with plastic pieces which their parents have fed them, a soup of small plastic items has formed in oceans, rivers and canals when larger items of plastic are broken down by the sun. This plastic is not biodegradable. Instead it's entering the animal's bodies and therefore entering our food chain. Researchers have found that microplastics are not just on the surface. Every body of water on this planet is being affected by the plastic. We want to help clear up marine plastics that are killing marine life and impacting humans.
BIOMARINE. With all the work you and your team have been doing, and facing a global challenge, what do you aim to achieve in the short and medium-term? Can we challenge you to give us your thoughts/goals for the long-term?
LM. Our 10 year goal is to Free the Oceans of Plastic by 2030. To achieve this we launched the #Clearneroceans campaign that involves raising awareness, finding innovations and technologies that solve the plastic crisis as well as raising funding for various marine plastics projects we are undertaking. One of our goals is to help clean up the Dublin harbour, since the pollution is so severe along the surrounding coast. We would like to raise sufficient funding from the Irish State to launch this innovation in Ireland as well as tie in with the Draft Marine Spacial Planning Framework so that we may become part of the supporting actions for Pollution Prevention, Pollutant release, Marine Protected areas, Marine research and development for cleaner Irish water. We are looking for interested partners in this regard and connections to the State to help keep the momentum going.
BIOMARINE. The BioMarine Community is composed of more than 5000 members working in the blue economy, from different backgrounds (investors, industrialists, researchers, governmental agencies, NGOs, etc). This could be a great and free platform for you to advocate your needs and recruit innovative business ideas. What is your call to action for our Community?
LM. The Planet Calls is raising funds to donate 5 autonomous litter collection devices to clean up areas in marine plastic crisis. We are taking urgent action to help clean up the oceans. We are committed to stopping the devastating effects marine plastics have on marine life and the people on our planet. We would like to initiate discussions with investors, industry partners, researchers, government agencies, and NGO’s to help us raise €100,000 for these litter collection devices that we will deploy into areas of marine plastic crisis.
We will align the project with the Good Environmental Status (GES) of the EU's marine waters, we will focus on developing a clean up strategy for the four European marine regions – the Baltic Sea, the North-east Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea in accordance with Marine Strategy framework Directive.
We invite interested parties to get in touch with us to achieve our goals.
Do you want to know more about THE PLANET CALLS ? Check their website HERE or meet with Leslie and team at the Ocean Day, Dec 4th 2020, Montreux Climate Show!