7 Challengers from the circular economy

"…as one man’s meat is another man’s poison, so one man’s rubbish is another man’s treasure"

- Chamber’s Journal of Popular Literature, Science & Arts (1879).

As the earth’s finite resources become increasingly depleted it’s no surprise that brands and businesses are having to move away from the conventional ‘take, make, dispose’ industrial process.

Increasingly businesses are looking at different ways to think about and find resource; the share economy as pioneered by the likes of airbnb, and more recently the notion of the circular economy has come to fruition in modern business, whereby what was once seen as ‘waste’ is now seen and reimagined as resource.

For Challenger Brands this provides a host of new ways to challenge the incumbent brand or status quo with their old world, linear thinking. Here’s seven startups with great ideas that have adopted this model and approach to business whilst doing their bit to save the planet.

1. Snact

Challenging food wastage.

London based Snact are turning surplus and wasted wholesale fruit into healthy dried fruit snacks or fruit jerky.

Friends Ilana and Michael started Snact in 2013 to tackle food poverty and address food wastage. According to a report by Tristam Stuart, a leading author and expert on food waste, an estimated 15 tonnes of food is wasted each day – with nearly half of that coming from household waste.

The plan for Snact is to adopt a model similar to that of The Big Issue whereby people affected by food poverty would sell the snacks at busy city hotspots where the vendors can earn commission on each pack sold.

They recently raised funding on crowdfunder.co.uk reaching their target within a matter of days. The investment will go towards increasing production and creation of new packaging – packs are currently individually hand stamped.

2. Bionic Yarn

Challenging the assumption that plastic ends up in landfill

Bionic Yarn turn recycled plastic (often bottles collected from the ocean) into the world’s first ecoyarn, a super strength thread then used in clothing manufacture.

Bionic Yarn co-founder Tyson Toussant spent six years developing Bionic Yarn with his classmate Tim Cooms, Pharrell Williams joined the team as partner to help grow the brand in 2009.

So far, Bionic Yarn have teamed up with G-Star Raw, Timalaand and most recently with Adidas for their new Originals Collection.

3. Chirps (Six Foods)

Challenging attitudes towards eating insects

Six Foods are a three young women from Massachusetts who have created a healthier alternative to the potato chip.

Chirps are made with beans, rice and cricket flour (crickets whizzed to a powder) and they are hoping they can persuade America that for both health and planetary reasons eating insects is the future.

For every pound of meat produced 2000 gallons of water are required, for every pound of crickets just one gallon of water is needed. Crickets also have a far higher protein content as well as far less fat content per 200 calories. If Six Foods can continue to present products in a way that overcomes customer’s ‘ick’ factor, the arguments for are compelling.

Six Foods have raised $70,000 via their kickstarter page and this will go towards production costs. Customers can currently pre-order through their website and they hope to be in stores in America by the end of 2014.

4. Brocklesby

Challenging food wastage

Established in 1997 Brocklesby process used oils and fats and turn them into refined oil for as renewable fuels in the biodiesel industry.

The family firm’s processing plant currently takes around 300 tonnes of waste oil a week and stops thousands of tonnes of food waste ending up in landfill each year.

They’ve recently been working with the Green Chemistry centre of excellence at the University of York to develop a zero waste bio-refinery.

The company currently has turnover of £45m but is growing rapidly expecting to reach £75m turnover in the next 5 years.

5. Bio-bean

Challenging food wastage

Bio-bean focus on waste coffee grounds from London’s largest coffee shops and restaurants and process them into biomass pellets and biodiesel to power some of London’s buildings and transport.

Bio-bean aim to process over 30,000 tonnes each year at their North London plant, recycling a huge chunk of the 200,000 tonnes of coffee waste produced each year and preventing harmful greenhouse gases such as methane and carbon-dioxide from being released.

Many London buses already run on biodiesel and it could soon be a reality that they run on the coffee waste of London’s coffee drinkers.

Although not yet operational Biobean have received £100,000 in grants and funding and have had large coffee chains express interest in being part of the cycle of their sustainable vision for London.

6. Mud Jeans

Challenging the assumption that customers have to ‘own’ what they wear

Mud jeans offer customers the chance to lease a pair of jeans rather than buy them. For €5,95 per month users can rent a pair of Italian made organic jeans which includes subscription to a free repair service.

After a year you can then decide to keep the jeans, swap for another pair or send back whereby Mud will then resell to someone else or if beyond repair shred and recylcle the denim to create new jeans.

The Dutch company exist to prove that the circular economy concept is possible in the fast paced fashion industry. They aim to cut the high levels of water and cotton wastage associated with denim production and instead adopt and encourage models of reuse and recycling. They currently have 3000 early adopters of the scheme worldwide.

7. PhoneBloks

Challenging planned obsolescence and the disposable nature of the electronics industry.

PhoneBloks isn’t so much a business but an idea. An idea for a phone worth keeping. PhoneBloks are challenging the very disposable nature of the electronics industry, whereby faulty or out-dated electrical goods are thrown away rather than upgraded or repaired.

They want to steer the industry towards modular construction so that devices no longer have to be entirely thrown away but the faulty component parts instead replaced.

Since releasing their video plea they’ve had a social media reach of over 380,000,000 people and had the likes of Google, Sennheiser and Fairphone sign up as partners.

Since PhoneBlok began the modular movement, Google have developed Project Aura, their first attempt at a modular phone and since then, ZTE and Xiami have also developed modular prototype phones. The hope is that PhoneBloks will be the beginning of the end for electrical waste.

OpinionJude Bliss