Rushlight Show 2021 highlights sustainability and the circular economy

Fully virtual for its 12th year, and sponsored by Innovate UK, the Rushlight Show brought together companies, customers, investors, charities and government representatives and advisors: all with a connection to clean technology, and a common goal to develop new sustainable energy, resource and environmental solutions.

The discussions facilitated through the show built upon the Government’s recently published Ten Point Plan, which aims to make the UK a leader in clean growth through investments in energy, transport, nature and innovative technologies.

Featured across the two-day event were presentation and panel sessions dedicated to clean energy, natural capital and the circular economy. These sessions provided a valuable opportunity for experts to share the current challenges of sustainable growth, the progress being made in the UK and the steps that still need to be taken to ensure we meet our ambitious net zero goals.

The energy session centred around the transition from high carbon fossil fuel usage to clean renewable options, including harnessing hydrogen to power vehicles and electrifying domestic heating. The Sixth Carbon Budget, a report produced by the Climate Change Committee to advise the Government on the UK’s path to Net Zero, was also presented. This involves four key steps: uptake of low-carbon solutions, expansion of low-carbon energy supplies, reducing demand for carbon-intensive activities such as meat and dairy consumption, and greenhouse gas removal through sustainable land use changes.

In the natural capital session, the Capitals Coalition presented the diminishing state of the UK’s natural capital stock over the past 20 years, with knock-on consequences on our wellbeing predicted in the near future. To overcome this trend, we must recognise that our economy and society are embedded within, and therefore dependant, on the Earth’s biosphere. Currently our demand rate is greater than the natural regeneration rate of ecosystems; this supply and demand balance must be reinstated to replenish our natural capital.

The circular economy session covered the vital progression needed in waste reduction, from industries such as food, textiles, packaging, technology and infrastructure. Implementing a sustainable circular economy involves reusing products, extending product lifespan, intensifying product usage and dematerialising products that we do not need. Innovative business currently employing these strategies include Elvis & Kresse, who create products from decommissioned firefighter hoses, Whitecroft Lighting, who use a circular model to create commercial lighting, and MUD Jeans, who produce recyclable denim clothing. Here at CHAP, relevant research into developing a novel, recyclable and sustainably produced hydroponic growing media is being carried out as part of the GelPonics project.

Running alongside these sessions were an on-demand Cleantech conference and a virtual exhibition hall, giving organisations a chance to showcase innovative solutions within energy generation and storage, transport, water, manufacturing, agriculture and the natural environment. A wide variety of intriguing products were featured, including indoor surface materials made from dried seagrass, on-farm shipping containers for organic waste treatment, a beehive adoption program to support communities in Kenya, and cultivated meat grown from animal stem cells.

Cleantech innovator Envirup Ltd, took the opportunity to promote a novel greenhouse wall insulation system designed to improve the energy efficiency, productivity and carbon footprint of large-scale greenhouse crop production, supporting the agricultural sector to meet its net zero emission targets. Envirup is partnering with CHAP on a feasibility project, funded by Innovate UK’s ‘Sustainable Innovation Fund’, to determine the potential of the system to reduce greenhouse energy demand and cost and to extend the growing season of fresh produce in the UK.

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