Image for Closing the loop: 20 circular startups making useful things out of waste

Closing the loop: 20 circular startups making useful things out of waste

Public voting has opened for the Green Alley Award, Europe’s first startup prize for the circular economy. We scan the shortlist and reveal what trailblazing trash-busters made the cut

Public voting has opened for the Green Alley Award, Europe’s first startup prize for the circular economy. We scan the shortlist and reveal what trailblazing trash-busters made the cut

Using rubbish rather than raw materials to create new products is the cornerstone of circular economics. This approach twists the linear, planet-trashing take-make-waste linear model into a planet-friendly loop.

Recognising the trailblazing startups that are leading the way in circularity is the annual Green Alley Award. This year, organisers want the public to vote for their favourite from the shortlist below.

Circular economy
1. Chemicle

Using dairy waste to make recyclable plastic is broadly the aim at Chemicle, a UK startup that had the gouda idea of turning cheese whey into a bio-alternative to oil. It is then used in the production of plastic.

Image: Katrin Leinfellner

2. Kleiderly

Globally, a reported 87 per cent of materials used in clothing end up in landfill or incinerators. Enter Kleiderly, which transforms textile waste into a sustainable plastic alternative for use in furniture and, fittingly, clothes hangers.

Image: Duy Hoang

3. Cyclic Design

Designing single-use packaging out of society is Cyclic’s purpose. Its refillable Nepenthes bottles are ideal for patrons of packaging-free shops: they can be refilled with shampoo, conditioner and liquid soap.

Image: Cyclic

4. Carbonauten

Keeping warming to internationally agreed limits may only be possible if we take CO2 out of the atmosphere. Carbonauten’s charcoal-like biocarbons do just that, offering a climate-negative alternative to traditional building materials.

Image: Antoine Rault

5. Seacirc

What gets measured gets managed, or so the saying goes. Subscribing to that theory is Seacirc, which has developed reporting software that can quantify a company’s use of resources, improving transparency and highlighting areas for improvement.

Image: Noah Buscher

6. Greenbin

This Polish startup has developed a tracking system that uses QR codes to follow packaging. Users of the Greenbin app get rewards when they scan rubbish at designated collection points, encouraging more items to be recycled.

Image: Gary Chan

Circular economy
7. Excess Materials Exchange

A kind of online swap meet for industry, this Dutch platform helps firms funnel excess materials and waste streams towards companies that can do something with them.

Image: Bas Emmen

8. Papair

Papair, a sustainable startup based in Germany, had plastic bubble wrap in its crosshairs when it developed this planet-friendly alternative, which is made of out of 100 per cent recycled paper.

Image: Papair

9. AlterLabs

By educating decision-makers, AlterLabs hopes to accelerate the transition to a circular economy. The social enterprise offers corporate consulting to help firms embrace sustainability, while also organising free workshops to inspire new ideas.

Image: Karsten Wurth

10. Pixies

The team at Pixies is developing a small army of autonomous litter pickers, capable of sweeping through urban environments collecting trash.

Image: Armin Djuhic

Vote for your favourite circular startup Public voting is now open for the Green Alley Award, Europe’s first startup prize for the circular economy. Cast your vote by Tuesday 2 February 2021. Vote now
11. Lyfa

Anyone who uses a milk delivery service will be familiar with the concept behind Lyfa’s e-grocery service. It delivers items to people’s doors in reusable packaging that is then picked up during the next delivery.

Image: Markus Spiske

12. Traceless

On a mission to banish single-use plastic is Traceless, a German startup that has developed a technique for transforming agricultural industry residues into a biodegradable substitute for cling-film and other packaging.

Image: Nazli Mozaffari

13. MarinaTex

Imagine if all packaging biodegraded within six weeks. Well, that circular dream is closer to reality thanks to MarinaTex, which uses fish waste from the fishing industry to make an organic alternative to single-use plastic bags.

Image: Gregor Moser

14. ReSync

ReSync is encouraging businesses to have a rethink about waste. The online B2B platform connects companies with recycling contractors, offering online price comparisons.

Image: Sigmund

15. TrusTrace

Promising greater traceability in the fashion industry, TrusTrace is a digital platform that uses AI to pore through product portfolios to ensure supply chains align with brands’ sustainability goals.

Image: Waldemar Brandt

16. Betteries

The rise in electric vehicles (EV) is creating a potentially massive new waste stream: used batteries. Trying to get ahead of this problem is Betteries, a German startup that turns old EV fuel cells into power packs.

Image: Ralph Hutter

17. Recyda

Recyda’s software helps packaging producers, brand owners and retailers in the consumer goods sector assess the recyclability of packaging – one of the first steps towards reducing waste.

Image: Kelly Sikkema

18. Impakt Luxembourg

How do you know if a product is genuinely circular; who chronicles its journey? Cue Impakt Luxembourg, which has developed a system to create a universal digital fingerprint for all products to allow for greater transparency.

Image: Markus Spiske

19. Plastship

What if there was a way to use plastics sustainably? That’s the aim of Plastship, a digital platform that enables companies to source recycled plastics to the specification they require, rather than using virgin materials.

Image: Marc Newberry

20. Dimpora

The irony of most outdoor wear is that it is made from materials that aren’t overly friendly to the environment. Dimpora, a Swiss chemical company, aims to address that. Its waterproof membranes are made out of biodegradable polymers and can be used to make outdoor clothing.

Image: Kelly Repreza

Positive News readers can vote for their favourite circular startup here. Each voter will be entered into a prize draw to win one of three Trendraider sustainable lifestyle boxes, containing ‘circular wellness products’. The venture with the most votes will earn a place in the finals, alongside five other finalists that will be chosen by the Green Alley Award experts committee. The six startups will then present their ideas to an international jury on 22 April – and the winner will receive €25,000 (£22,240). Voting closes on 2 February.

Main image: Dstudio Bcn

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