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GoRolloe – Kristen Tapping

The future of sustainable transport comes in many ways but what if you had the ability to not only make travel carbon neutral but actually carbon negative transport where carbon within your local environment is actually absorbed? This is the wonderful concept that our inspirational story today comes from and that is Kristen Tapping.

GoRolloe is a bicycle wheel that filters outdoor air pollution simply using the rider’s energy!

Hi Kristen, tell us a bit about your backstory

As I was finishing my degree for Product Design at London South Bank University, I entered a competition and quickly came up with Rolloe to meet the brief. I ended up winning the competition – Design Innovation in Plastics 2020 – and from there got lots of unexpected publicity and interest.

Since then I have graduated and formed a company to develop Rolloe – now changed to GoRolloe as the Rolloe name was taken! Half my time is spent developing the product including prototyping, testing, researching, intellectual property, etc. The other half is spent learning about business…how get funding early on, how to set up a business that will be sustainable (in revenue), what the market wants. Then there’s a million zoom calls, lots of social media and website management with inquiries, and media requests.

So Kristen, why Sustainable engineering and why are you passionate about this aspect of sustainability?

Well I am passionate about sustainability in general, so this fits in. Air pollution is interesting as its invisible so people and governments tend to forget about it. Only now are reports coming out linking it to chronic illnesses and deaths. I think it needs to be highlighted so people are aware of what is happening.

Then we can see that air pollution is not equal in all parts of the city…lower socioeconomic areas have more exposure due to poor urban planning, congested roads, lack of parks, etc. On another note, I think people would like to help improve the air around them but really have no clue where to start. With litter, you can just pick it up. With air pollution, what do you do?? I wanted to create a product that consumers can relate to on a visual level and that enables them to easily contribute to the environment.

What’s next for you?

Next steps are to validate the estimated data through an external lab. We are getting the help from Imperial College which is known for being able to assess air pollution, and London South Bank University which allows us to prototype and test on their facilities.

Then we will produce pilot launch models for interested parties. Outside model making quotes were way too expensive, so we are producing them in-house using silicone moulds and resin parts. It will be fun!

One piece of advice for a sustainable future

The focus at the moment is all on reducing CO2, which of course is very important, but the spotlight omits other harmful gases and particulate matter. For example, electric vehicles are deemed the green answer to everything, but the mining of lithium is not usually not sustainable nor ethical, the batteries can’t be recycled, and the vehicles now weigh 25% more so the tyres produce 25% more particulate matter pollution. I am not saying EVs, are bad, just that we need to understand what goes into our air and realize one solution doesn’t fix it all.

When you are buying a product, don’t just look at what they are promoting (for example “made from recycled plastic”), instead look at the entire life cycle assessment…how was it made, how long is the user interaction (does it break after 3 uses?), how is it disposed (is it recyclable).

Also I think have a broader view on plastic – plastic is bad for single usage, but can be great for certain applications where it will reused over and over again and can be recycled at the end of life. For example plastic can greatly reduce the CO2 emissions during shipping.

Bioplastics are interesting…yes you limit the need for usage of fossil fuels to create, but then the product needs to be industrially composted – when you survey the users, how many are actually going to drive it out to an industrial composting site? So instead what happens is they end up in the trash or recycling bin and do not get recycled, as a normal plastic would have been able to. Point of the story is try to look at the big picture.

What would you recommend from RYVIAS for our audience?

I’d like to see more on what is true sustainability, which you get here. I want more in depth posts about the complexities. Connecting with experts is cool and the idea that some members could interact as part of an online chat is amazing.

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