22 Jul 2015

Reuse, recycling, Green Alley and BGV

By Glen

We’ve got pretty widespread recycling across Europe these days – people generally “get it” and put their recycling out. There’s still a lot of work to do to get recyclables in, but, broadly, we know what to do. San Francisco recently celebrated diversion of 92% of their waste from landfills.

So, problem solved, right?

Not at all.

Recycling is great, but it can be done in loads of ways – paper, glass, plastics, and metal recycling have their place, but they have problems, too.

They miss stuff

WEEE is a big problem – waste electronics, many of which end up in landfills – are full of refined precious metals often in much higher concentrations than the ore they were originally extracted from.

There’s loads of other stuff that just isn’t recyclable by current methods, not to mention that…

Stuff gets chucked out that still (may) work

Computers, mobile phones, chargers, tablets, VCRs, DVD players – these work on a particular cycle – people upgrade, and chuck the old one out. Further, when it breaks, there are whole chipsets that are still useful – usually one chip or even a motor is the only thing that’s broken.

The downcycling problem

We hold up aluminium cans as the gold standard of recycling: easy, cheap, saves energy, profitable. But did you know that there are 2 different grades of aluminium in a can? You can’t melt one down and create another – the top and the sides are different types of aluminium. They end up being recycled into a different product, one that has looser materials properties – maybe a stud for wallboard. Then, when that’s recycled it gets more impurities.

The same thing happens with the 50 billion plastic bottles used only in America (which, you’ll notice, have different types of plastic for tops and bottoms). They can be remanufactured into carpets, fleece, park benches… but not more plastic bottles.

There’s a ton of other stuff

That’s not currently recycled, reused, or dealt with properly, for a massive variety of products.

There are behaviour issues – getting people to actually recycle certain things.

There’s a question of the markets for recycled goods.

So what to do about all this?

That’s where you come in.

The BGV community – now and in future – is filled with people with great ideas that just might change the world.

We’ve partnered with the Green Alley Award who are looking for new startup ideas working to:

  • Reduce, reuse, and recycle material from industrial waste streams
  • Complete recycling and upcycling
  • Working to extend the lifecycle of existing products
  • Whole-lifecycle analysis in the design of products
  • Awareness raising and behaviour change around recycling and reuse
  • Awareness and behaviour change around producer responsibility – particularly complying with EC WEEE regulations

It’s not just us and Green Alley – the partnership includes Landbell Group, the group that manages the European Recycling Platform – and Seedmatch – Germany’s largest equity crowdfunding platform.

Those selected will go on to a full-day workshop in November, and one winner will get €20,000 in cash and in-kind services – including €7,000 and 6 months’ office space in Berlin. The real prize is the network – if you’re working on reuse and recycling platforms, the networks will be invaluable to you.

Apply here – and hopefully we’ll see you in Berlin in November.