Nine start-ups leading the circular economy

22 April 2021 by Katy Quicke
blog author

What goes around definitely comes around as far as the circular economy is concerned. The aim is to eradicate waste by utilizing what we already have on the planet and keep items in working order to help close the loop.

The move towards a circular economy in favor of the traditional, linear economy which focuses on the ‘take-make-dispose’ model, brings more benefits than just protecting the earth’s natural resources.

According to charity and think tank Green Alliance, expanding the circular economy could create thousands of new jobs in the UK alone with as many as 54,000 net jobs going to the unemployed by 2030.

An increasing number of companies are working to accelerate the transition towards a fully circular economy, pushing boundaries and limits to show that curiosity can indeed pay off.

We’ve taken a look at some innovative start-ups that are throwing themselves in the deep end and coming up with inspiring, sustainable ideas to revolutionize the way we do things - by using what we already have.

Some of these trailblazers are in the running to win the Green Alley Award 2021, Europe’s first start-up prize for the circular economy, established by Landbell Group.

The Green Alley Award, which goes digital this month, connects like-minded people and helps start-ups to take their next step in three specific fields:


Waste Prevention

Digital Solutions


1.     TrusTrace

TrusTrace wants to bring transparency to producers and consumers in the fashion trade which is one of the most polluting industries in the world (fashion currently makes up 10 percent of humanity’s carbon emissions).

The company aims to make every single person aware of their own responsibilities and aim for best practice, via its state-of-the-art digital platform which has attracted more than 10,000 users to date.

TrusTrace helps consumer brands (such as fashion, food and pharma) and retailers to streamline their sustainability efforts and tell the entire story of the product, from the source of each ingredient right down to the final product.

The company has been awarded the Solar Impulse label, in recognition of its highest standards in sustainability and circular economy.


2.     Dimpora

This chemical company works to create sustainable, high-performance membranes mainly for the production of outdoor gear, without harming the environment with substances such as per- and polyfluorinated chemicals (PFCs).

These hazardous chemicals are harming the environment and Dimpora aims to contribute to enabling outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy nature without harming it via toxic clothing.

The company, founded by two former university students-turned-scientists, takes its name from ‘dimension’ and ‘pore’ – highlighting the firm’s vision of a seamless and breathable membrane.


3.     Kleiderly

Sorting the vast clothing waste problem within the fashion industry is the aim for this Berlin-based firm.

Founded by Alina Bassi, who recently joined the Forbes 30 Under 30 Manufacturing and Industry class of 2020, Kleiderly aims to reuse all discarded clothes and keep them out of the landfill.

The even bigger goal? Patent-pending technology has been developed to recycle waste clothing into a new, sustainable material to replace oil-based plastics.

This in turn will lower fashion’s carbon footprint and save tonnes of CO2 emissions. Which is timely when you consider that currently 87 percent of all clothing waste ends up in landfill or is burned in incinerators, and synthetic clothes can wallow in landfills for up to 200 years.


4. Carbonauten

Carbonauten aims to remove CO2 from the atmosphere and store it permanently in sustainable and profitable products that avoid further greenhouse gases.

The German firm claims just one tonne of its biomaterial can store an equivalent of more than three tonnes of CO2.

This is achieved through the development of its NET Materials® (Negative Emission Technology), made from wooden residues, a combination of CO2-reducing biocarbons with different binders. The resulting biomaterials can replace conventional plastics and building materials for a wide range of industries.

There are a plethora of ways modified biocarbons can be used, including as fodder coal in livestock farming, water buffers, soil improvers and as a raw material for activated carbon.


5.     Traceless Materials

This female-founded start-up has come up with a sustainable alternative to single-use plastics to help fight against the environmental crisis threatening each and every one of us.

The firm uses innovative technology (patent pending) to transform agricultural industry residues into three unusual materials: traceless film, traceless plas and traceless coat.

The bio-based Traceless materials are based on biological residues and are created using natural ingredients such as natural polymers (rather than chemically modified versions).

As a result, composting takes just 2-9 weeks.


6.     ReSync

ReSync, the winner of the first public vote at the Green Alley Award pitch final, has developed an online B2B recycling platform which enables businesses to find the right recycler for their needs.

Companies produce various kinds of waste daily that they must dispose of legally - enter ReSynch’s platform which matches companies with recycling contractors.

These contractors are conveniently located and offer value for money, so benefits include increased collection rates and better waste separation.


7.     Pixies

Remember the kids’ film Wall.E, about the robot who cleaned up a heavily littered Earth?

This innovative start-up is the brainchild of three Italian engineers who want to clean up cities and make them greener, using the perfect blend of design, artificial intelligence (AI) and autonomous mobile robots.

With 2.1 billion tons of urban waste produced each year, Pixies have developed a sustainable solution combining urban furniture design and robotics.

Still, in its development stage, the robots are powered by solar energy and will clean streets and sort plastic for recycling, which can then be reused to produce Pixies’s products.

However, unlike the film, we’re not sure two of these robots will fall in love with each other. That would be too trashy for some people. 


8.     Cyclic Design

Cyclic Design strives to push the boundaries of design, including the entire product’s lifecycle, for minimal environmental impact and maximum consumer appeal.

Founded by two women who utilize their product design and business development acumen, Cyclic Design creates unique sustainable packaging through three stages: strategy, ideation and implementation.

Factors taken into consideration when designing packaging for clients include sustainability and lifecycle assessment, supply chain scoping and sustainability communication.


9.     Excess Materials Exchange

This Netherlands-based start-up is another firm that uses a digital platform to find the most high-quality reuse solution for secondary materials and waste products around the world.

The matching platform aims change the waste sector and accelerate the global transition to a circular economy, by giving maximum value to products that are usually considered worthless.

The firm believes it can lower the carbon footprint by showing the ecological and financial value of materials, and challenging companies to think about the design and production of their products.