Green.org sat down with Ken Flockhart, the CEO of Changeover Technologies, to learn how they are researching and developing sustainable solutions for the clean-up and reuse of discarded waste streams.
Tell us a little bit about you and your background:
As a child in Glasgow, Scotland, I was an ardent reader and dreamer of travelling to faraway lands. As Glasgow was a famous shipbuilding city there were always people you met who had travelled and that’s likely how I got the bug. After graduating, my wife and I moved to Canada. This then led us on a three-decade journey to the Mediterranean, Middle East and Far East, eventually landing in the UK and London.
Throughout my life in international business, I’ve been involved in developing major infrastructure projects which culminated in new city projects in Dubai and Cairo, where we implemented within the design, sustainable intelligent property and city management systems. When you live and work in areas where extremes in climate are common and where urban development and population growth are rapidly changing the physical environment, it focusses your mind upon the importance of long-term thinking on the impact we are having on the environment.
I’m an advocate of smart buildings and cities because we need to have the vision to protect the land for future generations and to ensure we optimise the use of our raw resources. Although Changeover Technologies is completely different in industry and technology than those in my previous business life, I found a clear calling within it, and the ability to help our planet. We can provide greener solutions to carbon dependent industries as they move on their journey towards net zero. In my mind for every ton of waste recycled I envision new trees planted.
What is a fun fact about you?
We have an old family home in the Highlands of Scotland amid some of the most beautiful countryside bound by the sea. When home, I look onto the abundant seaweeds within our Atlantic waters. There they are, floating, waving, and waiting, they’ve been taunting me for years. I dream constantly on how we can retrieve the organic potential that lies within these mineral rich seaweeds. SEAWEED FACT: Seaweeds are consequently rich in macro-elements and trace elements, with a mineral content at least 10 times higher than terrestrial plants and reaching 20-50% of its dry weight. Maybe this could be another opportunity for Changeover Technologies?
Why do you think climate change and sustainability is such an important topic today?
We’ve hit a critical point where the human eye can now easily see the impact of climatic change. From eroded glaciers to disrupted monsoons and steadily rising water levels, what is so alarming is that we are out of sync with our planned transition to net zero. This is why it is so critical to get buy-in from industry and get them onto the transition journey now! The low hanging fruit, like waste clean-up and recycling into the circular economy, can kick start so many industries on this transition journey.
What do you envision your industry looking like 10 years from now?
I see a steady impact from government policies wielding the “Big Stick,” driving up carbon taxes and “Carrot,” from investments and tax advantages moving the carbon dependent industries to greener sources of sustainable carbons.
I am not referring to fossil carbon fuels but to carbon as a building block within the steel and silicon industries to name but two high purity carbon dependent industries, both primary driving industries in tomorrow’s sustainable infrastructure. Accompanying this will be the technologies of hydrogen and carbon capture and storage, however, in global industrial terms it will take at least 30 years to feel their impact.
Greener sustainable technologies must be commercially proven, invested into and physically installed, and will require a 30–40-year transition period. It took 30 years for the UK to install and convert to North Sea gas and wind power has taken 50 years to date to reach momentum. This is why we need to act now and begin cleaning up and reducing and reusing waste.
What can the average person do to make a difference?
Read, investigate, question, where the products you use within your daily life are made and how they are produced. Understanding this is a transition journey and it will not happen overnight, particularly in the cases of carbon critical industries. As in most situations there is not a panacea, or one solution, it will require a combination of solutions working together to bring us back into balance with net zero.