Using new technology innovatively, we can achieve tangible reductions in our consumption and resources, something that is a must in order to achieve sustainable levels at a global level. Two exciting Swedish startups that are doing this are Orbital Systems, who have been called “the Tesla of the shower world”, and Karma, whose app can contribute to reducing the amount of waste discarded unnecessarily.

According to UN-Water, two thirds of the world’s population live in areas that are short of water for at least one month a year, and half a billion live in regions where water consumption exceeds the groundwater’s local rate of renewal.

Malmö-based company Orbital Systems is therefore an interesting example of how technology that has been developed for one application can be used in a different context and result in less waste, in this case fresh water and energy.

Founder Mehrdad Mahdjoubi came into contact with NASA’s Johnson Space Center while studying industrial design at Lund Institute of Technology (LTH), the result of which was a concept for treating water intended for future journeys to Mars. He soon realised that the technology could be used to build a shower that can save significant volumes of clean water here on earth by means of effective filtration and recirculation. Orbital Systems was founded in 2012, and the following year the first pilot plant was installed at a swimming pool in Malmö.

The shower system is based on a combination of micro- and nanofilters, which between them filter out unwanted particles, including viruses, bacteria and 99.9% of all toxins and metals.  As a result of this, only 5-10 litres of water are needed for a shower, a saving of almost 90%. 

The circulation also means that the energy needed to heat the shower water can be reduced by nearly 80%. They recently launched the OAS shower system, which is aimed at a broader market than previous versions, and it is hoped that this will result in the company making its commercial breakthrough.

While Orbital Systems’ product deals with a resource shortage that is unevenly distributed over the world and less tangible in Scandinavia, Karma is targeting resources that are being wasted closer to home.

According to the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, in Sweden we threw away approximately 50 kg of food per person unnecessarily in 2014. Food production contributes to, among other things, greenhouse gas emissions, so in a larger perspective a reduction in food waste could make food go further, without increasing the environmental impact.

Karma attacks part of this food waste through its service that offers consumers an opportunity to rescue surplus food from restaurants, cafés, bakeries and shops as take-aways at a reduced price. 

Founders Hjalmar Ståhlberg Nordegren, Elsa Bernadotte, Ludvig Berling and Mattias Larsson started Karma as a service for shopping offers, but they changed direction in 2016 when they realised that there was interest from both restaurants and consumers in a service that makes it possible, in a simple and efficient way, to sell food that would otherwise be thrown away. More than 30,000 people have already downloaded the app and 13,000 meals have been rescued.

There has been a high level of interest in these two companies, and we can be absolutely sure we will be seeing more Scandinavian examples of how the innovative use of new technology can create opportunities for reduced waste and contribute to the more sustainable consumption of resources.

The author:

Ulf Ahlberg, Product developer at Avalon Innovation