How circular economy startups can make a difference

30th May 2018 Posted by: Julia Linz, Verena Schmidt-Brand, Landbell Group

No matter what lifestyle you lead, whether you are a business person or a bartender, whether you are taking care of your kids or leading a company, there is one thing that remains at the end of the day: waste. 250 million tonnes per year are generated in the UK alone, according to EU statistics (Eurostat 2014). Although we can hardly stand to see the pictures of plastics in our oceans, birds starving because of plastic parts in their stomachs, wildlife getting caught up in residues of our wasteful lifestyle and children growing up in between piles of rubbish, we just go on consuming and disposing. But nature tells us, obviously, we just cannot go on like this. Solutions inspired by the idea of a circular economy, where the value of products, materials and resources is maintained in the economy for as long as possible, and the generation of waste minimised, are striking a new path to a future that could cope with these challenges. Not “take, make, dispose” but rather “reduce, reuse, recycle” is the credo of a circular economic system. At the end of this path should stand a new definition of waste as a resource and raw material for endless material cycles. 

The earth needs you

That’s where you and your startup come in: Five years ago, environmental service provider Landbell Group launched the Green Alley Award, Europe’s only startup prize specifically for the circular economy. Our mission is to nurture and promote startups and entrepreneurs who came up with new solutions for urgent waste problems and aim to rethink the waste and recycling industry as we know it today. This year, we focus on three key building blocks: ideas for waste prevention, recycling innovations and digital circular economy solutions. Over time, we have built strong partnerships with German crowdfunding pioneer Seedmatch, UK’s legendary tech for good accelerator Bethnal Green Ventures and R2pi, an EU Horizon 2020 project on circular economy business models.

With our partners help, the Green Alley Award became the first startup prize of its kind, attracting more than 500 applications from over 50 different countries since 2014 and covering numerous brilliant innovations for a better, greener and more sustainable world without waste. Each round, countless waste issues and possible answers have been presented to us and revealed, that we can contribute to something bigger and more important than ourselves and our business as usual mainly focused on profit. Read in our blog, how it all started and why we do what we are doing. The startups applying for the award taught us that, first, there is always an alternative and second, it’s all about solutions. Did you shop online lately and had to get rid of a whole bunch of packaging waste? RePack found a reusable packaging alternative. Do you get angry hearing the latest figures on food waste from supermarkets? FoodLoop offers an application to prevent this. Do you use cosmetics in plastic boxes and wondered if there would ever be an alternative? Sulapac invented it. Their wood based alternative packaging still maintains the waterproof and impermeable advantages of plastic. Here is your chance to follow in the footsteps of these past winners and stand on the shoulder of giants.

Earn more than just a trophy

But why should you take some of your precious time to tailor a pitch deck and apply for this award? Because the world needs you! This might be your contribution to saving our earth. Your startup might be the next unicorn, that will disrupt another industry and change our lives – but not in terms of money but in terms of our precious natural resources. If your startup contributes to a circular economy in Europe, we are the ones to foster and promote your business idea to make it successful. We think the world needs more ideas like the eco packaging from Sulapac, winner of the 2017 Green Alley Award, whose ambitious aim is no less than saving our oceans from plastic pollution: “If we don’t change anything, we’ll soon have more plastic in the sea than fish.”

This year the award will be even more attractive for startups to hand in their circular economy business ideas as we’ve upgraded the prize money to EUR 25.000 in cash, which can be directly invested in your business. Moreover, this cash infusion is complemented by the chance to raise capital through crowdfunding: To win the Seedmatch Crowd Award not only assures you of the love of the crowd but also helps you to start the perfect crowdfunding campaign.

But even if you do not win: Once chosen for the finals there is no such thing as losing! During our event in Berlin you will not only have numerous networking opportunities but also work on your business model in individual mentoring sessions with Landbell Group professionals as well as external experts on the circular economy and startup industry. Due to years of pan-European experience in recycling and take-back solutions, we’ve acquired a profound expertise, which we want to share with young emerging innovators in the market. At the end of the day, all finalists will have the full attention of an expert jury and an international audience, when they present their projects on stage in a five-minute pitch. Past finalists appreciate these benefits: “At the Green Alley Award the startups take centre stage: in individual workshops you talk to CEOs and other high-ranking experts, who take their precious time just for you and your business idea. This is a great experience and gives you a feeling of being important to them”, says Suvi Haimi, CEO of Sulapac. Being part of the Green Alley Award finals is a unique opportunity to increase recognition across Europe –  international coverage of the Award allowed Sulapac to accelerate their business and helped them receive significantly more international inbound leads and sign more customer contracts.

But what makes us really stand out in the multitude of startup awards is the lack of self-importance and hierarchy. We are interested in your idea rather than your business valuation, we take you serious and we talk to you from business man to business woman. “What differentiates the Green Alley Award from other startup awards is its family-like atmosphere", confirms Suvi from Sulapac. “When you arrive at the event location it can happen that you directly bump into the CEO of Landbell Group and have a chat with him!” 

With all this in mind, don’t hesitate to apply for the Green Alley Award 2018! Applications are open until 1st of July. You can check out the application guidelines here and find out more about us on our Website, Facebook and Twitter. For fact checkers we have compiled more nitty gritty details about the award here.

**This article is sponsored by the Landbell Group. It was written by Julia Linz and Verena Schmidt-Brand. 

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Not “take, make, dispose” but rather “reduce, reuse, recycle” is the credo of a circular economic system.


Green Alley Award


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