The waste-busters : six European companies are on a mission of reducing waste.

Apr 19, 2024 | News

The Green Alley Award is being given to some innovative ideas this year.

Imagine a world where you could recycle batteries with orange peel, pack fragile goods in eco-friendly charcoal, and drink coffee from a cup that was made from organic waste.

What if it was not the future, but a reality being created now? These are the types of businesses that have been shortlisted for this years Green Alley Award. This award is Europe’s oldest and most prestigious award for entrepreneurs and startups who pioneer circular principles. Six startups were selected from over 300 applications to present at the Green Alley Award Finals in Berlin on 25 April. The winning startup will receive a prize of EUR25,000.

Below, we look at the startups that are in the running to win the top prize.

The winner of the competition will be announced soon The startups are ready to present in Berlin their projects, with EUR25,000 on the line for the winner Green Alley Award

Peel power

According to the United Nations Global E-Waste Monitor 2020 the amount of electrical and electronic waste thrown away has grown three times faster than world population. Raffaele Nacchieio, poet, management expert and CEO of AraBat spotted the problem at the end 2020. He was inspired to create the world’s most cost-effective, sustainable lithium battery recycling method using orange peels from his native region in Italy.

AraBatuses a chemical reaction created by bringing used batteries into contact with vegetable or fruit waste. This allows them to extract metals (lithium cobalt manganese nickel and other) and reintroduce the resources back into market at competitive prices. “We dream of building a circular society that we do with courage every day,” says Nacchiero.

Orange peel is a surprising ingredient in a battery recycling process. Image: Awar Kurdish

Beyond toxic packaging

“We’re sick of seeing toxic waste everywhere, and we’re on a mission” to eliminate polystyrene. Elizabeth Lee (main picture), a designer at London’s Royal College of Art who is interested in objects that “help us enjoy life more and live more frugal on this planet”, says. She is now the CEO of Carbon cell in the UK, where she leads a team of surfers, sailors, designers, and engineers who are working on a solution for polystyrene.

Carbon Cell has developed a compostable solution to the problem of each EU citizen producing 188.7kg packaging waste by 2021. Only 120.7kg will be recycled. It uses biochar, a type of charcoal produced by heating agricultural waste without oxygen in a process called pyrolysis. The biochar is then transformed into packaging that is both compostable and carbon negative using a patent-pending technology. Carbon Cell claims to have a renewable supply and that it is compostable in home composting conditions.

Carbon Cell uses biochar in packaging that is both compostable and carbon negative. Carbon Cell Image

Plastic and rubber can be replaced with a replacement.

Every year, 400m tonnes plastic waste and 1bn tires are thrown into landfills. Katarzyna pokwicka-Croucher is the founder and CEO at Ecopolplast in Poland. She was inspired by this disturbing statistic to develop Ecoplastomer, an innovative technology which mixes recycled tyres rubber with recycled post consumer plastic, in 2018. Pokwicka explains that they set out to change the way recycled plastics and old tyres rubber are used for manufacturing.

The company’s patented and carefully designed process bonds raw materials without adding any additives or stabilisers. Ecoplastomers are therefore easily recyclable and circular. They are also independent from virgin raw materials, such as crude oils, and have a significant reduction in environmental and CO2 impact. “We wanted to develop a solution that would allow these materials to be reused. “We did it,” she says.

Katarzyna Pokwicka says: “We want to change the way recycled plastics are used in manufacturing.” Image: Ecopolplast

The cup that sustains your life

Have you ever wondered what happens to the peel after you’ve eaten an orange? This question prompted Novapedra to develop a solution for some of the organic wastes that end up in landfills. After a series investigations and tests of the dehydration orange peel, their team developed a low energy manufacturing process that reuses organic waste to make ceramics. “It is our way of bringing resources to light where others see waste,” said Emiliano Altamirano. The company’s CEO and creative director, based in Barcelona, says:

Orange peel is also used in Novapedra, an alternative to ceramic. Novapedra Image

Check it out

Have you ever wondered what happens when your clothes’magically’ scan onto the cash register in an automatic-checkout shop. Radio frequency identification tags are electronic circuits which enable product tracking. These tags are made of metals and microchips. 18 billion of them are produced annually, and many end up in landfills as e-waste. A group of Royal College of Art design graduates and Imperial College design students have developed a paper based RFID tag that does not contain metal or silicon components to reduce the waste of electronics.

PulpaTronics has developed chipless paper RFID tags made of carbon that are cheaper, metal-free and compatible with recycling. Their design aims at streamlining the manufacturing process, eliminating the need for silicon and metal components, as well reducing CO2 emissions. “Being one of the six finalists for the Green Alley Award was a great honour for us,” said Chloe So.

Paper tags from PulpaTronics are an eco-friendly alternative to electronic clothing labels. Image: PulpaTronics

Fashion fades but the planet doesn’t

Only 1% is recycled. It is not only wasteful to throw away good quality textiles, which can lead to pollution and greenhouse gases, but also uneconomical. It is possible to turn old textiles into brand new ones, but is this realistic?

The Belgian startup Noosa was founded in 2019 and claims to be leading the way. They have created a fibre made from sugar that is 100% recyclable, thanks to their trademarked “Noocycle” technology.

Noosa produces a fibre made from sugar that they claim is 100% recyclable. Image:

According to the company, the way the fibres are made makes them competitive with both cellulosic and synthetic materials. “We are proud of being part of Green Alley Award finalists in order to shed light on the textile waste we generate and the solution that we propose to make the most efficient and circular use of our resources. “Supporting innovations at European levels is key to accelerating the ecological transition and making them available at industrial scale,” Luna Aslan, CEO at Noosa.

The final judging will take place in Berlin on 25 April. Click

Elizabeth Lee, a designer at the Royal College of Art in London

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