5 circular economy startups we’ve got our eyes on

5 circular economy startups we’ve got our eyes on
Sherrie Totoki
Thu, 06/03/2021 – 01:15

This week, we announced five startups pitching June 17 at Accelerate at Circularity 21. Accelerate is a fast pitch competition featuring startups across the circular economy value chain.

Climate tech startups, and investments into them, are growing. In 2020, investments into early stage climate tech companies topped $60 billion and grew at a faster rate than all VC investments from 2013 to 2019. Entrepreneurs are shaping the future of every industry from all corners of the world. During the submissions process, we had applicants who hailed from 21 countries. And at Accelerate this year, you will hear from entrepreneurs who are based in cities across Europe, Africa, and the U.S.  

The startups you will hear from apply a multitude of ideas to mitigate climate risk, respond to shifting customer demands and unlock new business opportunities across the value chain. Who are they?

Huue

Huue is a biotechnology startup working to clean up the apparel industry’s manufacturing footprint by creating sustainable dyes for textiles, food and cosmetics. Today, indigo dye in denim manufacturing uses toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde, cyanide and petroleum. Instead of using toxic chemicals, Huue turns sugar into dye. Their team first examines how color compounds occur in nature. Then, they leverage proprietary bioengineering to create microbes that mirror nature’s process and consume sugar to enzymatically produce dye.

Huue cofounders Dr. Tammy Hsu and Michelle Zhu

Huue cofounders Dr. Tammy Hsu and Michelle Zhu

Huue

Textiles and the fashion industry account for about 20 percent of global wastewater pollution, 10 percent of global carbon emissions and 17 million tons of municipal solid waste. Immense amounts of water, energy and chemicals are put into the dying process, making this issue a cross-cutting factor in the road to creating a circular economy in the fashion industry. The communities that live in close proximity to clothing factories also suffer most from polluted rivers and water sources, creating an urgent call for climate justice. 

Huue’s environmentally friendly process eliminates the need for water-polluting chemical reducing agents, and has the potential to create better conditions for factory workers and community members that live alongside textile manufacturing facilities. 

The largest source of textiles in municipal solid waste is discarded clothing. Of the 95 percent of textiles able to be recycled or reused, only 15 percent are recovered from the waste stream.

Lizee

Lizee customer environmental performance dashboard

Lizee customer environmental performance dashboard

Lizee

Lizee enables brands and retailers to incorporate circular rental models that help lower the volume of discarded textiles. Facilitating the rental process helps companies launch and scale marketplaces to reduce the environmental impact of retail. Lizee offers a turnkey data-driven solution, allowing any brand/retailer to kickstart and grow their reuse services without losing track of their impact.

A systems-wide approach across the creation, reuse and disposal of materials is needed to address this global textile waste problem. 

Another type of material, building materials, currently account for 11 percent of carbon emissions worldwide, and will continue to grow as the population increases by 2 billion people by 2050.

Made of Air

Made of Air helps solve the emissions problem created by the increased use of concrete, steel and wood in our cities.

Made of Air Audi building facade

Made of Air Audi building facade

Made of Air

Made of Air takes low-value biochar waste from plant materials, such as tree clippings or crop residue, and transforms it into high-value, carbon-negative thermoplastics, turning manufactured goods into engineered carbon sinks. The vast majority of materials in durable applications, such as building facades, are either fossil-based, non-renewable or otherwise actively harmful to the environment and climate. Made of Air’s carbon-negative materials are drop-in ready, and they are already working with companies such as H&M and Audi.

Rejoule

Transportation companies are addressing the circular economy not just with the materials that go into their cars and facilities, but also with the batteries they run on as the industry moves toward producing more electric vehicles. 

Rejoule team

Two members of the Rejoule team

Rejoule

ReJoule’s battery diagnostics technology can ensure EV batteries are more reliable, safer and longer-lasting. Their diagnostic platform can assess real-time health data, battery analytics and issues, and enable a secondary market for used batteries.

Rejoule performs a fast test, in seconds versus hours, that provides insights into the battery’s health and remaining useful life. 

Electric vehicles are projected to reach 58 percent of global passenger vehicle sales by 2040. This increase in EVs inevitably will cause an increase in battery use and end-of-life materials. While many OEMs are experimenting with battery reuse, testing batteries can be costly and time consuming. New technologies to design, test and evaluate batteries are needed to address this growing EV market.

RecyclePoints

Zooming in on a more local level, Nigeria is one of the largest producers of solid waste in Africa, and receives 71,000 tons of used consumer goods from other countries each year. Lagos, Nigeria is the second fastest growing city in Africa, and generates about 10,000 tons of waste per day. 

RecyclePoints is a waste recycling and social benefit venture that helps address the waste issue in Nigeria. The team has developed a point-based incentive model to collect waste materials while rewarding points that can be redeemed for household items and cash. 

The recyclables that are collected are processed and then sold to manufacturing and recycling plants that use the items for new materials. RecyclePoints empowers low income communities to recycle and be rewarded with real value for their waste. They have created 60 jobs in Nigeria, 80 percent of which are filled by women.

RecyclePoints team

RecyclePoints team

RecyclePoints team

Due to limited regulations, the waste problem in Nigeria is growing, and solutions to address this issue need local entrepreneurs such as Mazi and Chioma Ukonu of RecyclePoints.

The circular economy is not about just one industry or solution. As outlined above, circular solutions span across several sectors, in all geographies, and start with reframing how we think about, fund and design entire systems. 

We hope you will join us June 17 to vote on these five finalists pitching at Accelerate at Circularity 21.


Circularity 21


Innovation

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During Accelerate at Circularity 21, attendees will hear from entrepreneurs who are based in cities across Europe, Africa, and the U.S. Photo by Lagos Techie on Unsplash.

Sherrie Totoki June 19, 2021 at 02:38PM

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