María Isabel Amorín is a MSc student at the University of Edinburgh and the creator of CrustaTec, a project that aims to solve two of Guatemala’s biggest environmental problems in one go.
The textile industry is one of the most important economic activities in Guatemala. However, its environmental impact is high. Approximately 30% of textile companies discharge untreated dye waste into the municipal drains. This is alarming because even a low concentration of dyes in the water can reduce photosynthesis in aquatic environments by preventing the penetration of light and oxygen. Also, the dyes are non-biodegradable and have toxic effects on humans and other species, as well as producing an economic risk due to the mortality of the fish.
Our project provides one solution to two environmental problems. The seafood industry in my country discards a huge amount of shrimp shells to municipal landfills and rivers, causing further environmental risk.
We have developed a water filter based on chitosan, a synthesized polymer made from shrimp shells that is capable of retaining the dyes used by the textile industry. This invention is specifically designed for handcrafted textile production, since the available technologies for textile water treatments are too expensive for small-scale producers.
I’m inspired to create new solutions for the textile artisans around the world who need an easy and affordable way to treat wastewater. I am excited to implement a solution based on the circular economy that can be produced locally. It is difficult to implement solutions with appropriate technology for developing countries, but you learn a lot along the way.
Q: What kind of mindset do you need to achieve the Next Great Impossible?
A: I think I need an innovative mindset, because we are combining research with implementation and business. It is important to be able to make the results of the research available to society to resolve real-life problems.