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Circular economy: six trash-busting startups that are reimagining rubbish

Europe’s first start-up award for circular economy has revealed its 2021 shortlist of finalists. From carbon-negative building materials to plastic made from old clothes, nominees offer novel solutions to pressing problems.

Until recently, the concept of circular economy was a marginal concern. In the context of a looming ecological crisis, progressive thinkers realized that the planet’s destructive linear model was not fit for purpose and advocated a new approach, one that used waste, rather than raw materials, to manufacture new products.

The idea has slowly seeped into mainstream discourse, with politicians in the EU and the UK introduce legislation designed to extend the life cycle of products and make them easier to repair. Multinationals like Ikea is also embracing the concept of a circular economy. There is a long way to go, of course, but it is a start.

The Green Alley Award He was a champion of the circular economy long before it became fashionable. Launched in 2014, it recognizes little-known startups that are leading the charge to develop products and services that eliminate waste.

Despite the pandemic, this year’s competition was packed with entries. With the help of the general public, including Positive News readers, who voted for their favorites online, six finalists were selected. The startup with the most votes was automatically included among the finalists; the remaining five were selected by a committee of experts on circular economy.

Circular economy

Circular companies use waste, rather than raw materials, to make new products. Image: Bas Emmen

“I am glad to have received so many applications in this challenging year. It shows that the entrepreneurial spirit is unwavering even in times of crisis, ”said Jan Patrick Schulz, CEO of the Green Alley Award founders, Landbell Group, a global provider of chemical and environmental compliance solutions.

The six companies will present their products and services to the Green Alley Award judges on April 22, and the winner will receive € 25,000. Due to the pandemic, the awards will be held virtually this year and anyone can register to view them for free.

Here are the six startups competing for the top prize:

1. Carbonauten, Germany

Carbonauten has developed a climate-positive alternative to existing building materials that could reduce the environmental impact of the construction industry. Its innovative biomaterial is made from wood waste and absorbs large amounts of carbon: according to Carbonauten, just one ton of its biomaterial can store the equivalent of more than three tons of CO2.

Image: Antoine Rault

2. Dimpora, Switzerland

Outdoor clothing must be breathable and protect users from wind and water. But, in general, these characteristics involve chemical processes that carry high costs for the environment. Enter Dimpora, which has developed a high-performance, biodegradable alternative to conventional membranes that do not use toxic chemicals in the production process.

Image: Kitera Dent

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Circular economy

3. Kleiderly, Germany

Berlin-based Kleiderly set out to solve two environmental problems: the increasing amount of garments being wasted annually and the growing demand for oil-based thermoplastics. To that end, the startup recycles textile waste and turns it into a sustainable plastic alternative that can be used to produce any type of plastic product, including, appropriately, clothes hangers.

Image: Nick de Partee

4. ReSync, Germany

Many companies produce mountains of waste each year, which they are legally required to eliminate. A B2B recycling platform developed by ReSync combines companies with recycling contractors that are conveniently located and offer good value for money. The positive side effects are better waste separation and increased collection rates. ReSync is also the winner of the first public vote for the Green Alley Award.

Image: Sigmund

5. Materials without trace, Germany

This pioneering company has developed a technique to convert waste from the agricultural industry into a sustainable alternative to hard plastic film and packaging. The result is an all-natural material that can be composted in organic waste bins and reportedly biodegrades in nine weeks.

Image: Nazli Mozaffari

6. TrusTrace, Sweden

The promise of making supply chains more transparent in the fashion industry is a digital platform developed by Swedish startup TrusTrace. The AI-powered service analyzes product portfolios, helping fashion companies ensure their supply chains align with their sustainability goals.

Image: Waldemar Brandt
Lead Image: Absolutvision

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