Estonian Innovation of the Year: 50.000 People Cleaning the Country

Estonian Innovation of the Year: 50.000 People Cleaning the Country

This week it was announced that Estonia’s most innovative person of 2008 is Rainer Nõlvak (pictured) – entrepreneur and visionary, who came up with the idea of a nationwide cleanup campaign titled Let’s Do It! 2008.

About 10.000 tons of illegal waste was lying around all over Estonia, but Nõlvak and Co had this outrageous plan to clean it all up on one day! So on the 3rd of May this year more than 50.000 volunteers – about 3% of Estonian population – came out to clean up forests, roadsides and other public areas.

More than 40 waste management companies supported the initiative with necessary containers and garbage transportation vehicles. The initiative aimed to recycle up to 80 percent of the collected waste, making it the first massive recycling project in Estonia. The usual amount of garbage recycled in Estonia is 10 percent, so this is eight times more than the average.

But there was also a technological angle. Let’s Do It! 2008 was backed by one of the founders of Skype, Ahti Heinla. He helped taking care of digital geo-mapping of the waste.

Before the actual cleanup work started, the campaigners used special software based on Google Earth, positioning software for mobile phones and mobile phones with GPS to map and photograph 11.000 illegal garbage dumps across all 45.227 square kilometers of Estonia. The soft can be used in much larger and dirtier countries, such as India.

Lets Do it! 2008 attracted a lot of attention globally – Reuters, BBC, AFP … you name it!

Nõlvak is the Founder of Microlink. After selling the company he moved to Florida, thinking about never  working again. But then he realized: “To do just nothing turned out to be really hard. It’s like becoming an alcoholic – it simply ruins your health. And then suddenly I felt in Florida that I am ridiculous.” So he returned to Estonia and established a research institution Curonia Research. Nõlvak is also involved with Celecure – developer of novel anticancer drugs.

Ahti Heinla is one of the founders of Skype. He is a partner in Estonia’s most famous venture capital firm  Ambient Sound Investments. Top innovations were chosen by the InnoEurope center.

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