The circular economy incubator from the city of Phoenix and Arizona State University (ASU) is supporting a handful of new projects designed to help the city improve its processing and management of waste as a raw material.
The projects include founding a coalition to develop technology solutions that address environmental challenges, a program to harvest egg shells from restaurants and bake them into pet treats, a program to bring recycling to areas where it has not been available, and a social enterprise that aims to work with recyclers, manufacturers and consumers to ensure that ethical responsibility is shared among all parties, according to Waste 360.
The incubator, dubbed Resource Innovations and Solutions Network (RISN) offers help to projects in development, including mentors to guide the development of the programs, introduction to industry stakeholders, access to technical and circular economy experts, business training, and strategic advisement.
The first two waves of projects selected and supported by RISN generated $4.1 million in revenue, the organization says.
Startup concepts eligible for the incubator include, but are not limited to, conversion of solid waste into new material or energy; services that divert, reuse or recycle; and software applications and design services that focus on sustainability. The priority waste feedstocks from the city that the successful ventures will have access to include plastics, batteries, carpeting and carpet foam, broken furniture, mattresses, textiles, food waste, compost and plastic film.
Thirteen ventures have completed their mentorship period within the incubator, including the following:
- Renewlogy, developer of a proprietary chemical recycling process that allows plastic to be reversed back into its basic molecular structure, converting nonrecycled plastic waste into new valuable products such as high-value fuels. Renewlogy was a winner of the 2017 Arizona Innovation Open and the 2018 Sustainable Brands Innovation Open.
- Hathority, which specializes in software integration and application development in order to make societal impacts such as reduce landfill waste, improve recycling and change customer behavior.
- Recyclops, who has used mobile app technology to bring recycling and waste diversion through a sharing economy model to areas that otherwise would not have options aside from sending their trash to landfill. Both rural communities and high density multifamily residential complexes are often without recycling services.
The circular economy is a way of “rethinking progress,” says the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. “In a circular economy, economic activity builds and rebuilds overall system health. The concept recognizes the importance of the economy needing to work effectively at all scales – for large and small businesses, for organizations and individuals, globally and locally. Transitioning to a circular economy does not only amount to adjustments aimed at reducing the negative impacts of the linear economy. Rather, it represents a systemic shift that builds long-term resilience, generates business and economic opportunities, and provides environmental and societal benefits,” according to the foundation’s definition.