The Zero Waste movement is gaining momentum.
As Ireland approaches a landfill crisis, two Irish startups are offering new solutions that go beyond waste reduction.
Eiravato, which helps companies turn their surplus materials into profit, and Zero Waste Biotech which turns food waste into a renewable fuel in 24 hours, aim to achieve zero waste for their customers.
Marcin Kulik, who co-founded Eiravato with Steve Cassidy, says the company is part of the “circular economy” which seeks to change perceptions of waste.
“We see waste as an opportunity,” Mr Kulik says.
“Each waste material can be transformed into something new provided that this material is treated as a resource, not as a waste. Where current systems fail is that waste is seen as a nuisance, as something we need to get rid of.”
Eiravato provides software to help manufacturers, retailers, and other businesses to reduce their waste to zero.
Manufacturers can use new technologies to extract fibres from materials from off-cuts to make new textiles.
Materials may be discarded in manufacturing clothes just because the printing of the pattern may be off by less than a millimetre.
Mr Kulik says that the material will be mixed with other waste and become contaminated and end up the bin. The costs involved in separating and cleaning the material makes rescuing unprofitable.
Mr Kulik refers to the controversy last year around reports that a fashion label burned surplus stock to prevent discounted items from entering the market.
He believes that big fashion brands can benefit from Eiravato’s products.
By ensuring traceability and transparency, he says, intellectual property rights are protected, and companies can be confident their waste materials are being transformed into new materials.
The entire supply chain benefits, including waste creators and waste processors. The priority for firms is, of course, to make profits, and companies can bring their waste to zero, while reducing costs.
Having received €550,000 investment from Enterprise Ireland and private investment, Eiravato is currently participating in Luxembourg’s Fit 4 Start accelerator programme.
Its software is already being used by a number of manufacturers in Ireland.
Stephen Beck, who co-founded Zero Waste Biotech in Belfast with Anna Hopwood, believes his firm can help Ireland achieve its national targets of reducing waste.
With Ireland producing 1m tonnes of food waste annually, a government initiative aims to halve food waste by 2030.
Zero Waste’s Aero-D machine can convert food and organic waste into a solid biomass fuel in 24 hours.
Its customers are food producers, hotels and restaurants and the startup is also working with the NHS to help hospitals in the North.
The company is also conducting trials with a global fast-food chain to deal with all of the waste generated at its restaurants.
“Food waste, burger boxes, coffee grinds, cups, can go into our machine and be converted to fuel in 24 hours,” says Mr Beck, adding food waste is a significant issue at landfill sites because it produces methane, a much more harmful gas than carbon dioxide.
Zero Waste Biotech allows large companies to convert it into a renewable energy, which Mr Beck likens to having a “mini power station”.
“You put your food waste in one side and out the other side comes hot water, heat, and electricity,” he said, and can cut food waste costs by 30%.
“Instead of storing food waste on site, which attracts vermin, the machine converts the waste into an inert solid fuel. It reduces their waste bill to zero.”
He says the timing is right following recent EU regulations and plans of the US and China to introduce food waste laws in 2020.
Zero Waste Biotech was the runner-up in the engineering category at Invent 2018 and reached the finals at the Pitch@Palace event for entrepreneurs in London.
Having self-funded to date, the company has plans to design a household version that will sit in the kitchen along with the washing machine or dishwasher.