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Press release

Winning Chemistry Projects Deliver Practical Climate Change Solutions in the Global South

May 21, 2024

Elsevier Foundation Chemistry for Climate Action winners double down on water pollution, waste management and gender equity.

The winners of the Elsevier Foundation Chemistry for Climate Action Challenge have been announced at the 8th Green & Sustainable Chemistry Conference in Dresden. The two winning projects identify innovative, concrete and scalable climate action solutions. Selected from 5 finalists, and 91 submissions across 41 countries, the award winners will each receive a EUR 25,000 cash prize to tackle water pollution and waste management with a focus on gender equity.

The winners are Altantuya Ochirkhuyag, researcher at the Mongolian Academy of Sciences and María Alejandra Flórez-Restrepo, researcher in the Biopolymer research group at Universidad de Antioquia in Colombia. All five finalistsopens in new tab/window pitched their solutions to a jury of scientific experts.

The Elsevier Foundation Chemistry for Climate Action Challenge is a collaboration between the Elsevier Foundationopens in new tab/window, a non-profit focused on inclusive research and health funded by Elsevier, and its flagship chemistry journalsopens in new tab/window. The Challenge represents a commitment from Elsevier to uncover practical, scalable solutions to specific issues caused by climate change, in global South communities. All shortlisted finalists were invited to attend the Green & Sustainable Chemistry conference and have received a two-month subscription to Reaxysopens in new tab/window, Elsevier’s premier chemistry and cheminformatics database.

Rob van Daalen, Senior Publisher for Sustainable Chemistry at Elsevier, said, “We are facing a triple planetary crisis related to climate, the environment, and biodiversity. It is heartening that so many researchers around the world are working on these problems. We hope that through receiving these awards, the two winners will make an even more important impact on their regional communities and will inspire others.

“Selecting the winners of the 8th Challenge was incredibly difficult, but we are delighted to recognize the hard work and dedication of all applicants and the finalists. Our two winning early career women researchers proposed research and aligned other activities to make significant local impact that will highlight problems and solutions at the same time," notes Dr. Klaus Kümmerer, Chair of the Challenge's scientific jury and Chair of the Green & Sustainable Chemistry conference. "Their commitment towards a sustainable future serves as an inspiration to us all, and we eagerly anticipate the impacts their future work will have, both on their scientific institutions as well as their communities.”

“We know that women are disproportionately affected by climate change and the Chemistry for Climate Action Challenge really addresses that,” Ylann Schemm, Executive Director of the Elsevier Foundation said. “Both winners have done a really fantastic job in centering women within their projects—as team leads and producers of these innovative solutions. We’re proud that eight years on, the Challenge continues to identify concrete solutions to very real climate problems in the global South.”

Altantuya Ochirkhuyag's project emerges at a critical time for Mongolia, a nation recently identified as one of the world's 36 high-water-risk countriesopens in new tab/window, and one particularly vulnerable to climate change.opens in new tab/window Ochirkhuyag's project utilizes abundant local volcanic rocks such as zeolite, basalt, and perlite, transforming them into blocks capable of removing organic pollutants from wastewater. Additionally, these volcanic rocks provide a natural habitat for bacteria essential for pollutant degradation. Pathogens may be removed also. This cost-effective, scalable solution based on locally abundant not only promises significant improvements in water quality but also contributes substantially to climate action efforts as it it is an approach needed little energy only for water treatment and sanitation. It can be applied alos in places without connection to a public sewerage system.

The second winner's project focuses on the development of mycelium biomaterials from white-rot fungi isolated from Colombian forests. Using agro-industrial waste as a growth substrate, Maria Alejandra's project aims to create sustainable materials that can substitute synthetic ones, such as leather, reducing the latter's environmental impact. This project offers a cost-effective and scalable solution to tackle agar waste management effectively by valorising it. It significantly reduces environmental impact.

The Challenge also supports SDG5, Gender Equalityopens in new tab/window, recognizing the pivotal role that women play in combating climate change. Projects submitted to the Challenge must have integrated a gender dimension (such as addressing the role of women in adapting to climate shifts and participating in policymaking and leadership roles) into their projects.

For further information about the Elsevier Foundation Chemistry for Climate Action Challenge, visit the Elsevier Foundation websiteopens in new tab/window.

Notes for editors

More information about the winning and shortlisted projects and the teams behind them is available on request.

About Elsevier Foundation

The Elsevier Foundationopens in new tab/window contributes over $1.5 million a year to non-profit organizations through partnerships which incubate new approaches, highlight inequities, and catalyse change toward the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Funded by Elsevier, a global information analytics company specializing in science and health, the Elsevier Foundation is part of Elsevier’s wider corporate responsibility program. By leveraging Elsevier’s networks and unique insights in content, data and analytics, the Elsevier Foundation is able to expand its impact in gender, health, climate action and reduced inequalities. Since 2005, the Elsevier Foundation has contributed over $16 million in grants to over 100 partners in 70 countries around the world. In addition, the Elsevier Foundation offers a special fund to support disaster relief, matching employees’ donations, and volunteering to enable employees to work closely with Foundation partners and support their communities. www.elsevierfoundation.orgopens in new tab/window

About Elsevier Chemistry Journals

Next to the traditional chemistry journals, Elsevier publishes a Current Opinion journal in Green and Sustainable Chemistryopens in new tab/window and a series of journals in sustainable chemistry to address current global challenges: Sustainable Chemistry and Pharmacyopens in new tab/window, Sustainable Chemistry for Climate Actionopens in new tab/window, Sustainable Chemistry for the Environmentopens in new tab/window, and Sustainable Chemistry One Worldopens in new tab/window (focusing on the Global South).

About Elsevier

As a global leader in scientific information and analytics, Elsevier helps researchers and healthcare professionals advance science and improve health outcomes for the benefit of society. We do this by facilitating insights and critical decision-making with innovative solutions based on trusted, evidence-based content and advanced AI-enabled digital technologies.

We have supported the work of our research and healthcare communities for more than 140 years. Our 9,500 employees around the world, including 2,500 technologists, are dedicated to supporting researchers, librarians, academic leaders, funders, governments, R&D-intensive companies, doctors, nurses, future healthcare professionals and educators in their critical work. Our 2,900 scientific journals and iconic reference books include the foremost titles in their fields, including Cell Press, The Lancet and Gray’s Anatomy.

Together with the Elsevier Foundationopens in new tab/window, we work in partnership with the communities we serve to advance inclusion and diversity in science, research and healthcare in developing countries and around the world.

Elsevier is part of RELXopens in new tab/window, a global provider of information-based analytics and decision tools for professional and business customers. For more information on our work, digital solutions and content, visit


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