Trash to Treasure aims to contribute to a greener Sri Lanka by converting waste to charcoal briquettes

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Sri Lanka is gearing up to inspire and spur some of its talented youth towards innovation, with an aim to build a greener and more sustainable economy. A platform that has gained its spotlight is the Green Innovation Challenge by HackaDev, an overarching programme led by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Sri Lanka, to which Curve Up (Pvt) Ltd, a consultancy focused on ed-tech and community empowerment, has partnered as its incubation partner. 

The program has drawn some of the most innovative and entrepreneurial mindsets, and among them is Trash to Treasure, with its officially registered name Green Solve (Pvt) Ltd, a startup that produces charcoal briquettes from organic hard waste, including waste from king coconut, wood, and agricultural by-products. 

The production process involves carbonizing the organic waste at high temperatures in the absence of oxygen, transforming it into an efficient fuel suitable for domestic cooking, space heating, grilling, and water boiling. This method offers a sustainable and eco-friendly alternative to traditional charcoal production by utilizing materials that would otherwise be discarded or burned, thereby reducing our carbon footprint and promoting a sustainable future. 

Additionally, these charcoal briquettes burn longer and hotter than traditional charcoal, making them ideal for outdoor cooking and grilling. Their uniform shape and size also contribute to ease of handling and storage. These charcoal briquettes represent a high-quality, sustainable, and affordable fuel option for those seeking an environmentally friendly alternative to conventional charcoal. 

Following the program’s inauguration, Curve Up went on to host a comprehensive intro session to the HackaDev Green Innovation Challenge and facilitated workshops and one-on-one coaching sessions to its participants. A milestone plan was drawn up and reviewed by green-tech expert Hasanka Padukka after weeks of collaboration and guidance from the team at Curve Up.

The plan was thereafter approved by UNDP, followed by an MoU signed by the founders of Curve Up for Trash to Treasure. During the initial phase of the process, the first workshop on ‘Legal Essentials for Enterprises’ was conducted, led by attorneys-at-law, Mr. Asanka Kumarasinghe and Mrs. Hasini Kumarasinghe, who provided comprehensive insights into a diverse range of legal requirements essential for the operation of a business. The team thereafter went onto do the formal business incorporation procedures. 

Trash to Treasure founder Dhanushka Bandara also represented Sri Lanka at UNDP and Citi Foundation’s Youth Co:Lab Summit 2023, Asia Pacific’s largest youth social entrepreneurs gathering, held in Thailand, enabling him to showcase his startup and connect with other peers in the Asia Pacific region. 

The team went onto define market segments for their charcoal briquettes. They identified issues in the pre-production phase and took steps to mitigate these issues, ensuring no harm to the environment. The team conducted extensive market research to identify various types of charcoal production machines available. They evaluated the features, capacity, efficiency, and cost of these machines, ultimately selecting the most suitable options, including a grinding machine and an oil expeller, which was modified and converted from its originally designed coconut oil extraction, into a charcoal compression machine. 

The Trash for Treasure team performed comprehensive laboratory testing to assess the quality, safety, and performance of their product. A lab test and a site visit by the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) ensured product quality and compliance with environmental regulations. The team is presently working towards securing the Environmental Protection License (EPL).

Following these, a few workshops and activities focused on marketing were conducted, such as one by a specialist highlighting the importance of public relations strategies and media relations and one by a sustainability packaging expert, which led to rebranding their packaging materials. 

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