By Christina Drechsel

During the last couple of years new circular economy business models all over the world have continued to develop and evolve at a rapid pace. A complete new generation of entrepreneurs has emerged – those that tend to rethink old patterns, question business as usual and follow a sustainable path. Instead of buying new tools in hardware stores, this generation prefers to rely on sharing or renting platforms. Why do we keep all of our old and used mobile phones when there are recycling solutions already widely available? Some of these business models, mostly introduced by start-ups and eco-entrepreneurs, while still in their growing phase are taking the first step into bringing forward today’s circular economy – something that even established companies struggle with.

It takes a lot of effort as well as resources and support to transform a company’s strategy, supply or even value chain into a business model that relies on the principles of circular economy. Today’s production processes are based on a different way of thinking: A product is borne by a design concept, then it is produced, delivered and consumed. At the end of its life cycle, most products end up in landfills, despite the fact that several measures could have been taken to prolong its life. To prevent this, companies need to rethink their way of designing and producing products. Our conventional economic model of “take, make and dispose” could easily be overcome by introducing eco-friendly, reusable and durable materials – in other words, ensuring eco-design. This also implies reducing the amount of materials to the smallest possible amount and producing energy efficiently.

Start-ups, on the other hand, are agile and from the very beginning, they can think and create in a circular way as opposed to companies with an established linear system. Young entrepreneurs also tend to be more flexible and more motivated, because they are personally invested in saving resources and keeping our environment healthy. They can offer solutions to a foreseeable problem: today’s finite resources.

An example for this is the company Votechnik and its founder Dr Lisa O’Donoghue, whose mission was to help to protect scarce resources and clear our landfills from hazardous materials. With this in mind, she developed a recycling technology that has the potential to completely overturn the manual disassembly of LCD screens with a fully automated process that can disassemble LCDs into its components.

Votechnik was one of the finalists of the Green Alley Award 2015, a competition where circular economy start-ups and eco-entrepreneurs come together with experts from the field. The award gives green ideas visibility and helps start-ups to grow. Green Alley’s network includes partners, such as the British accelerator programme, Bethnal Green Ventures, Germany’s crowdfunding pioneer Seedmatch and ERP Finland, another specialist in the recycling sector. This year, the Green Alley Award is joined by H2 Compliance, a compliance service providing advice on chemical legislation as well as R2Pi, a Horizon 2020 project.

If you are a European start-up contributing a solution to the circular economy or know a start-up that fits this criterion please note that applications for the Green Alley Award 2017 are open until 25 July 2017. All green start-ups with a solution to reduce waste, recycle, reuse or even treat chemicals in an appropriate way are invited to apply for Europe’s circular economy award.

Detailed information about Green Alley, the Green Alley Award and the application process can be found here:

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