It’s been a rollercoaster of a year. In the world of sustainability alone, we saw the landmark Paris climate change agreement come into force; learned how rising temperatures in the Arctic are negatively impacting local residents; and watched as the world’s top conservationists mourned the declining state of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

And then, a bombshell: a certain “short-fingered vulgarian” won the US presidential race and called into question everything from America’s basic environmental protection to Nasa’s ongoing climate change research. Corporate America took evasive action, signing a letter telling Donald Trump it is serious about sustainability, while others began unpacking Trump’s emphasis on “clean coal” and what it really means for the future of energy in the US.

But it hasn’t all been doom and gloom. While the rest of the world struggled to come to terms with the aforementioned craziness, innovators, scientists and tech heads worked quietly from the sidelines to come up with solutions. And some succeeded: from a trashcan that sucks up ocean garbage to a drone that delivers vaccines to endangered ferrets, here are our top picks for this year’s best sustainable tech.

A trashcan for the ocean

It’s no secret that our oceans are turning into swirling garbage dumps. There are some 5.25tn pieces of floating plastic debris in the oceans right now, and it’s estimated that some 8m metric tons of plastic waste enter global waters every year.

Earlier this year, Peter Ceglinski and Andrew Turton, two surfers from Australia, came up with a device they’re calling the Seabin – a kind of submersible garbage can that captures floating trash. Picture a cylinder, with the upper opening just below the surface of the water. An electric pump draws water through the bottom of the cylinder, creating a vortex around the upper edge that pulls in water and floating trash. A bag filter, made of natural material, collects the trash and allows water to pass through.

After raising more than $267,000 in an Indiegogo campaign to help build the device, Ceglinski and Turton are keen to start selling the Seabin to marinas around the world. First stop: Miami, Florida, where Miami Beach’s marinas manager wants to start using the Seabin in 2017 to counter the bags, bottles, paper plates and forks found daily in the water.

A handheld cancer-detecting device

Earlier this year, British-based tech firm QuantuMDx developed a new, low-cost diagnostic DNA analyzer the size of a smartphone which is being billed as a “handheld lab”. The device – called Q-Poc – can accurately diagnose everything from cancers to infectious diseases in minutes. Although it is currently in alpha testing stage, the company hopes to get the product in the hands of doctors by early 2018.

Q-Poc runs on a solar-powered battery and it’s designed to read biological samples submitted via a credit card-size cartridge. It can work with a range of sample types: swabs can be used to detect sexually-transmitted infections, while saliva is used to detect tuberculosis. (Tests for other diseases will be added at a later date.) The device uses mobile technology, enabling the test results to be geo-stamped and shared in real time.

The prospect of a speedy diagnosis at a patient’s side is exciting, particularly in countries where access to medical care is a challenge. Subject to regulatory approval by the World Health Organization (WHO), QuantuMDx hopes to initially roll out the Q-Poc unit in South Africa, before expanding to other markets.

To read the full story, visit