Can we make new products out of old ones?
Let's see what these 3 startups think about that
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Every time we make a new product, we end up using resources from the planet- fuel, forests, water.
And at the end of its life, the product is mostly discarded- ending up in landfills or oceans.
So what if we could use the existing products to make new ones?
Not only would we save the waste generated, but we would also put less pressure on the limited resources of the planet.
Upcycling is the practice of creating a usable product from waste or unwanted items.
This new product is of higher quality or higher perceived value than the original product.
Let’s see how these 3 startups are upcycling different products⬇️
We might soon be fishing plastic…Every year, around 8 million tons of plastic waste escapes into the oceans from coastal nations. If this plastic gets caught up in the ocean currents, it can travel the world- affecting millions of species. With our current rate of plastic usage and disposal, our oceans could contain 1 tonne of plastic for every 3 tonnes of fish by 2025, and more plastic than fish by 2050.
A Direct to Consumer outdoor furniture company…Yardbird uses intercepted ocean plastic to manufacture furniture. When the founders saw the amount of virgin plastics used to manufacture outdoor furniture and the incredible amount of plastic debris on the local beaches, they decided to solve the two problems together.
A team in the Philippines collects plastic from the ocean which is bundled up and sent to a plastic recycling facility.
At the recycling facility, it gets cleaned, melted, and turned into pellets of plastic again.
It is then shipped to their wicker extrusion plant where they make all-weather outdoor resin wicker out of the plastic, and then hand weave it onto the frames.
You don’t throw your Yardbird furniture…60% of everything they sell has intercepted ocean plastic in it. Their average set of outdoor furniture contains 20-30 lbs of recycled ocean plastic. Apart from being made with recycled material, their furniture is also 100% recyclable. At the end of its life, customers can return the furniture to Yardbird instead of disposing of it in a landfill. Yardbird repurposes it and gives it a new life.
Do you brew your own coffee?… Then you might be throwing the used coffee grounds in the bin after each brew. Used coffee grounds are the most visible example of more than 23 million tons of waste generated by global coffee production throughout the supply chain. The worldwide emissions of coffee waste are equivalent to the yearly emissions of 10 million cars.
And we are not even extracting its value…When brewing a cup of coffee, less than 1% of its health-beneficial compounds end up in your cup. The remaining 99% remain intact in the coffee grounds that are thrown away. They ultimately reach a landfill- releasing tonnes of methane into the atmosphere. In 2016, 3 Colombian entrepreneurs started Kaffe Bueno in Denmark to upcycle coffee byproducts into active and functional ingredients for products.
Coffee grounds from selected hotels and offices in Copenhagen are collected and dried.
The company then extracts the antioxidant-rich coffee arabica seed oil.
It uses green chemistry and biotechnology to transform it into ingredients for industries like functional foods, nutraceuticals, and cosmetics.
Surround yourself with coffee…Their initial products are Kaffe Bueno Oil - a lipid used in high-end personal care products and food products, Kafflour- a gluten-free fibre and protein-rich functional flour used for healthy baking and Kaffibre- an upcycled natural exfoliant for cosmetics. A BCorp-certified company, Kaffe Bueno uses environmentally friendly technologies that recycle heat, water, and CO2 to produce these products.
Sustainability and religion…Flowers are considered sacred in India and people don’t usually throw them with other garbage. They are instead disposed of in local water bodies and rivers. Most of these flowers decay and pollute the rivers. Many of these flowers are covered with pesticides, that leach into the water, making it toxic to marine life. Toxicity in rivers like the Ganges, which is a water source for 400 million people, is also highly lethal for humans.
Flowercycling technology… Help Us Green collects millions of flowers from religious places and converts them into products like incense sticks, soaps, and eco-packaging. From these flowers, they have also created Fleather, a vegan leather alternative and Florafoam, an alternative to highly polluting polystyrene (thermocol).
After collecting the flowers, they are segregated and plastics and paper are removed from them.
Their chemical residue is offset, followed by washing and sun drying the petals.
Through different processes, they are then converted into incense sticks, vermicompost (decomposition using worms) and products like Florafoam.
Doing the right things…To make its products, the company has employed around 130 women through self-help groups. By 2022, they plan to employ 5000 more women. Products like incense sticks are completely hand-produced and are sold under the brand Phool (Hindi for flowers). In its effort to be sustainable, it recycles discarded cartons and cylinders from a local liquor factory for packaging.
🔍Want to know more about upcycling (and some related terms)?
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Great to bring upcycling issues forefront. Keep it up