Across Africa, and much of the world, end-of-use plastic is not collected for proper recycling. Instead, it is burnt; ends up in drains, sewers, fields and rivers; or in unprotected landfill, allowing toxins and microplastics to leak out. This is one of the hidden costs of our modern ‘linear’ economy – take, make and waste. Four entrepreneurs are turning that plastic waste into value – creating jobs for both disadvantaged and skilled people, improving local environments, and helping people find a purpose. We dig into their business models and hear their top tips for circular startups
Eco Brixs | lessons from social entrepreneurs in Africa | 30 under 30 | Don’t try to fix the problem
EcoBrixs Mission is “To create green, environmentally friendly, sustainable solutions to lift people out of abject poverty in Uganda”, and it does that by giving trash – waste plastic – a value. That means anyone in the community can recycle.
Eco Brixs started out in 2017. Frustrated with the lack of waste management systems in Masaka, Andy Bownds and his team started collecting plastic in his back garden, and after collecting 2 tonnes, decided to start a simple plastic collection facility called ‘Masaka Recycling Initiative’.
They went further, creating a circular economy solution to recycle plastic which would help support the local communities and economy. They developed an innovative plastic-sand composite paver which has been proven to be stronger, lighter and more durable than concrete. Fast-forward to 2019, and Masaka Recycling Initiative has now evolved into ‘Eco Brixs’, one of the largest recycling facilities outside of Kampala.
The café is an important part of the ‘social glue’ in many countries, especially those where alcohol is illegal or frowned upon. People gather to discuss the gossip – families, friends, celebrity and political happenings are discussed and even argued over, around a shared table. They may enjoy a shared experience, too, perhaps by smoking cigarettes, or in many cultures, using a hookah.
We explore some of the downsides to hookah smoking, for cafés and their customers, and find out how sustainable, circular and responsible approaches can create a better solution, helping café owners strengthen their reputations.
We talk to entrepreneur and designer Bassam Huneidi, about his Argeileh Project. Bassam is a circular economy designer and strategist, and a graduate of the Royal College of Art and Imperial College London. We hear how Bassam plans to disrupt one of the biggest traditions in the Arab world with a zero waste alternative that is better for the environment, cheaper for suppliers and better for public health, while providing the same experience for the user.
The Argeileh Project (or TAP for short) is a subscription based service that argeileh cafes sign up to. In return, Bassam’s team take the café’s current stock of argeilehs and melt them down into TAP vapes. These vapes are designed on cradle to cradle principles, so they are easy to maintain, easy to upgrade and in the case where neither is possible, infinitely recyclable.
Episode 21 with Tom Ogonek, Co-CEO of Close the Loop Inc. Tom joined Close the Loop in 2011 and oversees all aspects of global operations, building on a background in chemistry and manufacturing, and using his environmental industry perspective plus over 20 years of valuable operations experience to drive the business forward. Close the Loop operates circular economy services in Australia, the US and Europe.
Close the Loop make it easy to take back, recover, and reuse your high value products – so they don’t end up in rivers, landfills – or on someone else’s assembly line. These circular economy recovery services help keep the value in the system, instead of leaving it on the table for someone else.
In this episode, we focus on the ‘how’ of making your business circular, looking at the different ways people were getting to grips with the problem they wanted to solve. We also get an update on the new subscription model for ApparelXchange, and get some ‘bonus’ circular economy examples from David Greenfield (aka Dr Resources of the Circular Economy Club London).
How do we find a linear problem that needs a circular economy solution? Bec Evans, author of How to Have a Happy Hustle: the complete guide to making your ideas happen” suggests starting with what’s bugging you, and become ‘avid problem collectors’. We look at how our guests in the last series hunted down their linear problems and got clear on what the customer needed – the ‘job to be done’ in ‘Lean’ terms.
We hear from David Greenfield, about Tech Takeback, a partnership he set up to collect end-of-use consumer technology and get it back into the loop.
“Tech-Takeback” is a partnership between SOENECS, Freegle, EraseMydata and Brighton & Hove City Council to collect stranded resources through pop-up shops.
We talk about how it got started, the complexities of secure data removal, lessons learned, and David’s plans for the next phase of the project. David tells us about his favourite circular economy example: Biohm, in London – and I’ve saved some more of David’s examples for the next ‘Best Bits’ episode (#20).
David Bassetti is co-founder of 3D Seed. When David moved to Spain around 10 years ago, he noticed how much plastic was being wasted, and was frustrated that it became litter, instead of being recycled into new materials.
David developed a simple way of grinding up plastic to recycle it into a feedstock for 3D Printing. 3D Seed sets up small-scale projects to grind up everyday plastic waste, such as PET soft-drinks and water bottles, and then to 3D Print it into small objects, as a way to engage people in seeing waste plastic as a valuable resource. The kit uses very little energy and can run on solar power.
Episode 10 is our first circular economy highlights compilation! Perfect listening to spark your ideas for building a better business in 2020. This would be a GREAT episode to share with someone new to the podcast, or new to the circular economy.