It’s no secret that trash is one of the most pressing challenges of modern society. For instance, municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills are responsible for 15% of human-generated methane emissions in the US, while globally, a devastating 91% of plastic is not recycled. Leaving environmental sustainability a focus for many waste management companies and startups.
As climate change and pollution are the most pressing concerns the planet is faced with today, increasing numbers of waste management startups are geared towards finding better clean technology solutions. After all, a staggering amount of wasted materials can be reused, recycled, or repurposed and turned into new materials, products, or energy.
Today, we’ll explore what the Valuer engine has come up with in the way of waste management startups and the clean technology solutions they offer for environmental sustainability. The list includes companies with varied, innovative models and technologies, including recycling technologies, products made from recycled materials, e-waste collection, and many other types of waste recovery.
[Related Article - Innovating Sustainability: The Future of Waste Management]
But first, let’s take a look at how the Valuer engine selects and scores these waste management startups.
Criteria: the Valuer score
The Valuer score is an objective ranking of a company that is a cumulation of different criteria calculated by our platform. Measured on a scale from 1 to 100, the Valuer Score reflects a company’s success, growth potential, maturity, innovativeness, and sustainability based on the available data and in comparison to the other companies in our database.
The Success criterion uses company data, including its funding history, age, and size to calculate where a company is currently situated.
The Growth criterion uses a combination of data, including the company’s development and funding history, to forecast potential future growth.
The criteria for Maturity include the company’s current development stage, funding history, and operational size to determine its level of self-sustainability.
The Innovation criterion reflects how unique and original a company’s approach is at addressing an issue or a market gap compared to its peers.
Sustainability reflects the scale at which a company’s products and services can be used to make business operations more sustainable.
The top 10 waste management startups
Let’s take a look at what the Valuer engine came up with when we searched for the top waste management startups innovating in everything from environmental sustainability to waste recovery and recycling technologies.
Germany’s among the global leaders of the sustainable, green movement - in fact, a quarter of Germany-based startups in 2019 were geared towards environmental sustainability and climate protection. So it’s only right that we kick off the list with Zaak Technologies, a Zwickau-based waste management startup established in 2012 and founded by Abbas Khan.
Zaak Technologies is a startup that combines waste management with environmental sustainability in construction - they utilize patented technology to upcycle coal combustion products, i.e. residuals, like fly ash from thermal power stations and turns them into Lypors, a sand alternative that’s excellent as a construction material.
As sand and gravel are some of the most widely extracted natural resources that take a long time to renew, there are environmental concerns that their mining negatively affects coastal ecosystems. Lypros is a solution that works within the framework of a circular economy and is great for construction thanks to its high quality, lightweight, and thermal insulation properties.
Although there are recycling efforts all over the world, very few of them are sufficiently successful to make a significant difference to our carbon footprint. A common problem is that recycling certain items, like oily plastic containers, either wastes a lot of water or is somehow unmanageable for users and recycling plants, which often lack the appropriate recycling technologies. Lasso, formerly ReCircle, is a London-based startup that aims to change this and make all products fully recyclable for waste recovery.
The London-based startup was founded in 2018 by Alison Richardson and Aldous Hicks, who created an appliance that offers a 100% closed-loop system for recycling. The Lasso appliance sorts various recyclables like glass, metal, and plastic. It washes them and grinds them down to usable, pure materials that are then sold to the original manufacturer, who can use these recycled materials to make more of the same stuff. The appliance is available for both homes and businesses.
Child labor, unethical labor, deforestation, endangered species, and all other sorts of environmental devastation are some of the effects of cobalt mining in the DRC. And if you didn’t know already, cobalt is a metal used in the manufacturing of electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets, and computers.
Aware of this issue, Philip Bénard launched the clean technology solutions startup Electrobac in Montréal in 2011. Electrobac is fighting the good fight for environmental sustainability through their e-waste collection technology - the e-waste recycling smart bin.
There are 270 e-waste recycling waste recovery smart bins distributed in highly visited areas like malls, office buildings, and universities around Ontario and Quebec. The e-waste collection bins accept all sorts of small electronics and their constituents, like cables, chargers, smartphones, mp3 players, headphones, cameras, tablets, USBs, memory cards, etc.
The e-waste is then selected and either recycled or refurbished. This sort of waste management curbs mining for raw materials and all the dangers it poses for humans while championing environmental sustainability.
Recycling technologies come in all shapes and sizes. Roadrunner Recycling handles an important part of the recycling process in waste management: efficient transportation. This New York-based startup that was founded by Graham Rihn in 2014, seeks to cut carbon emissions by providing tailor-made transportation solutions for each client company in terms of optimizing routes, waste recovery, and recycling collection practices.
Their innovative logistics and clean technology also helps businesses reduce up to 20% of their monthly recycling and waste management costs, according to the company’s own estimation. Roadrunner Recycling creates custom solutions for businesses of all sizes.
Based on each business’s individual recycling practices, Roadrunner’s recycling technologies based on machine learning algorithms come up with the most efficient logistics. First, they recommend the most suitable containers based on the industry’s waste, and second, they empty the containers and transport the materials to a recycling plant on a schedule that’s tailored to the individual output of each business.
It’s not just e-waste and the manufacturing of small electronic devices that causes environmental sustainability problems - large appliances also have a carbon footprint-heavy manufacturing processes, while their inappropriate disposal and waste recovery adds to growing landfills around the world.
Recleim, in a partnership with German company Adelman Umwelt GMBH, is a startup that was founded in 2012 and offers innovative recycling technologies for large appliances that utilize a closed-loop system. With CEO Steve Bush at the helm, Recleim is based in Atlanta, though its flagship facility is in Graniteville, South Carolina.
The groundbreaking, closed-loop system recycling technology of Reclaim makes it possible to not just recycle but also de-manufacture large appliances, a resource recovery clean technology that’s used in some European countries and is green beyond EPA standards.
Recleim works with companies and all types of large appliances, like refrigerators, and reduces them to small pellets made of sorted materials. It’s the first and only company in North America that has the rights for Adelman’s technology.
Compology is a San Francisco-based startup that combines environmental sustainability and financial savings by providing companies and governments with the waste management technology to track and gather dumpster data. Compology was founded by Ben Chehebar and Jason Gates back in 2012, and since then, it has helped all sorts of businesses and government institutions to reduce spendings and reduce their carbon footprint.
So, how does it work? Well, Compology places special, wide-angle lens cameras in dumpsters. These cameras are paired with AI-driven tech that monitors each dumpster and their location, amount of trash, type of trash - like if there are any contaminants, and reports it back to the management.
The AI basically provides clients with data-driven insights on the dumpster’s content and maintenance; it’ll even tell you if it was serviced or not. Based on this data, clients can decide how to manage their waste most efficiently. For instance, if a certain dumpster is only half full, the company in charge of it may decide to hold off on emptying it until it’s completely full.
Recycling Technologies Limited is a recycling technologies startup that’s behind a type of modular recycling that can be added to existing waste sites around the globe. RTL was founded in 2011 by Adrian Griffiths and it’s based in Swindon, UK. The company utilizes a chemical recycling process that turns plastic waste into feedstock, which can be used for creating new plastic products. It basically allows for the production of plastic from recycled materials.
This technology is quite promising, as it could easily be mass-produced and dispersed across waste sites, helping us to combat the detrimental effects of plastic waste on environmental sustainability. Simply adding the technology could recycle plastic at waste sites and prevent it from making its way to landfills, oceans, forests, etc.
Or, for that fact, getting incinerated and releasing harmful toxins in the air. What’s more, this waste management and recycling technology could help companies reduce costs for raw materials.
Although quite young, this startup is another brick added to the sustainable construction and waste management industries. Pretred was founded in 2020 by Eric Davis and it’s based in Lakewood, Colorado.
The startup focuses on repurposing waste tires and waste plastics and turning them into blocks and barriers intended for industrial use. Their recycling technologies allow the construction industry to sidestep one of the most environmentally taxing materials - concrete - while making use of trash.
Such clean technology solutions that focus on using recycled materials are one of the key sectors of sustainable construction. But Pretred products aren’t just good for environmental sustainability.
The blocks and barriers are also high-quality, require less maintenance than concrete, and make overall financial sense for governments and construction companies to use. After all, the Pretred barriers and blocks are suitable for industrial projects and construction.
A huge amount of the waste humans produce can actually be recycled, reused, or turned into energy. Waste Resource Technologies prevents waste from piling up in landfills or seeping into the ocean and finds a better use for it. And by better use, we mean everything good that can be done with waste - organic recycling, resource recovery, waste recovery, and energy conversion.
WRT collects waste from all sorts of enterprises and then diverts it to other clean technology companies they collaborate with based on the material and technology in question. For instance, in integration with partner companies’ tech for material recovery and bioconversion, WRT helps transform waste into sustainable resources like natural soil amendments, baseload power, and natural gas.
Waste Resource Technologies was founded in 2017 by Kosti Shirvanian and it’s based in Newport Beach, US, but its services are available in several of the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California. The main goal of this waste recovery startup is to support local initiatives for alternative energy and sustainable agriculture.
Here’s a really sad statistic - nearly one-half of all fruits and vegetables produced globally is wasted. One-third of all food produced for human consumption is also lost or wasted. Agricycle is a young startup, founded in 2019, that aims to salvage some of what is lost by transforming agricultural byproducts and food waste into natural, organic consumer packaged goods brands. Agricycle is based in Milwaukee, US, and was founded by Claire Friona, Jacob Foss, Jen Kuhn, Joshua Shefner, and Patrick Nderitu.
Agricycle connects impoverished rural communities suffering from underemployment with low-maintenance tech suitable for the challenges of these areas, like lack of reliable electricity. The company trains workers on food handling safety and then provides them with passive solar dehydrators to preserve vegetables and fruits that would otherwise go to waste.
Agricycle then purchases the dehydrated fruits and vegetables from the rural communities and sells them to markets and brands that turn them into end products such as ingredients, healthy snacks, and other consumer goods. Plus, Agricycle offers workers access to affordable solar energy and health insurance, amongst other things.
Where these innovative startups are located
Waste management trends and environmental sustainability
Waste management startups today work on tackling various aspects of the global waste problem. After all, there’s plenty of trash to go around, and it’s a necessity to come at it from multiple fronts to truly reduce its carbon footprint and the detrimental effects it has on environmental sustainability. So the main, unifying trend that we see in waste management startups is creativity and innovation.
The top waste management startups are using different models and clean technology to recycle and repurpose trash, reducing waste and the need for depleting natural resources in the process. We’ve seen how all sorts of waste can be turned into energy, sustainable construction materials, materials for manufacturing the very same appliances and devices anew, and even edible food - luckily, in the form of dehydrated fruits and vegetables and not some creepy soylent green solution.
But it’s not just repurposing waste that’s a part of waste management technologies and models. Some of these startups also focus on reducing the carbon footprint through more efficient transportation routes and schedules, while others work on setting up networks and models that provide employment opportunities and collaboration to rural, agricultural areas. These are smart solutions that address multiple challenges on the road to environmental sustainability, humane conditions, and a true circular economy.
Environmental sustainability is a massively important factor for businesses and people alike when we consider the future health of our planet. But implementing sustainable solutions into your business doesn't have to hurt your bottom line, but rather improve it. Sustainable solutions, technologies, and the companies who develop them are a massive business opportunity, the only hard part is finding the right fit for your needs.
With the Valuer platform, you can transform your business with a click of a mouse. The platform gets you instant data on various companies, technologies, and industries so you can innovate and implement easier and more efficiently. Find your next sustainable solution and get ahead of the curve with the Valuer platform.