In the second blog post in the series, In-Between International’s Chairman Rebeka Bahadorani talks passionately to Proco about the water hyacinth. We discover how she and her team turned the highly invasive species – an environmental emergency – into a product sustainability solution.
The environmental emergency
Ever since a 2010 field mission to assess wastewater treatment in Burkina Faso, Rebeka wanted to implement change. Over the last several decades, the water hyacinth spread across the world rapidly. Everywhere it goes, it starves water of oxygen, blocks sunlight, and threatens the overall health of aquatic ecosystems. Escalated by climate change, this pandemic is extremely serious in more than 100 countries, impeding development, access, and growth.
“For decades, the world’s economy has been driven by financial profit only. We have abused our planet for far too long and people are becoming tired and wanting change. There is no planet B. Now we need – more than ever – innovative, sustainable and profitable solutions to inspire humanity to treat the Earth with respect. This is our duty for the ecosystem, our children and future generations to come.”
Finding a way to transform this environmental emergency into an opportunity became Rebeka’s mission. In June 2010, she founded In-Between International. Exploring the potential of the water hyacinth as an indefinite natural resource, rather than a burden, is the company’s primary purpose. They also strive to think out of the box and create a green profit from an inexhaustible source.
Meeting needs without compromising, sustainability is truly at the core of In-Between-International. “It is part of our DNA and one of the shared passions of our team. We are not only targeting sustainable solutions, but also profitable ones which will allow us to replicate our success stories in any of the 100 countries affected by the water hyacinth pandemic.”
Common sense is key; everything we need is offered by nature just in front of us, but it’s our duty to turn it into a sustainable, circular and respectful economy.
A Natural Purpose
The water hyacinth is an invasive species – wherever it spreads, it has a negative impact on the ecosystem. It impedes local populations and damages public expenditures. It’s also present in ecosystems all over the world, making it a true environmental emergency. When faced with this problem, founder Rebeka racked her brain – the plant is natural and prolific; surely it must serve a purpose? – to find a way to harness its key properties for tangible purposes.
In-Between International have now patented the first industrialised process to reclaim control of the plant, harvesting it for its fibre-rich characteristics. The result is near-infinite source of raw material suitable for various applications, such as building and construction. CYNTHIA is a bio-based, sterilised fibre, with a low carbon footprint and the potential to create jobs in rural areas. This also means that local authorities no longer have to use pesticides on the water hyacinth, since harvesting the plant frees up the previously blocked rivers and waterways. Further benefits include:
- Restoration of the natural ecosystem
- Reduction of public health problems such as malaria
- Decrease of water evaporation
CYNTHIA is also an extremely viable product when compared to other alternative fibres. According to In-Between International, CYNTHIA has an attractive price/performance ratio, a much lower environmental impact than traditional fibres, and requires no land or fertilisers, meaning that land can instead be used for conservation or agriculture. Additionally, it’s easily reused and recycled.
Changing the Fibre Game
Sustainability is an increasingly worrying concern for industries everywhere.
CYNTHIA offers the perfect alternative to other natural fibres used in thermal insulation, capable of helping countries reach their climate and energy targets. Because CYNTHIA fibres are produced from renewable plants, they have an intrinsically lower carbon footprint than most other synthetic materials. However, it demonstrates the same key characteristics expected of an insulation product. This is in addition to producing an actual positive impact on the ecosystem, creating jobs and freeing up more water. A report from Solar Impulse Foundation rates the CYNTHIA insulation board as 95% eco-friendly. In addition, a CYNTHIA insulation board costs about the same as a wood-based insulation board.
The Growth of Sustainable Solutions
The In-Between International team is composed of various talents with different sets of expertise. Anybody who shares passion for the same valued projects with communities on sustainable and profitable solutions can be successful at In-Between International.
“We organise weekly meetings with a respectful and listening culture, whereby everybody can suggest new ideas that will be thoroughly assessed and challenged!”
“Innovation with the water hyacinth has been an amazing journey. The more we dig, the more we’ve discovered applications with fascinating properties. So far, we know that our fibre CYNTHIA is a game changer in thermal insulation, alternative packaging, absorbent materials, and more.”
In our next article with Rebeka, we discuss the future of In-Between International and sustainability. Click here to read the first article in the series!