by Nick Purser

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The finalists of the Green Alley Award 2017 hail from Ireland, Finland, the Netherlands, France and Germany.

On 9 November, the finalists will meet in Berlin to live pitch their business models for the circular economy, resource conservation, and recycling. Their ideas range from biofuels made from recycled car tyres to reusable cups for vending machines; and from an efficient solar street to innovative packaging materials made of wood and natural adhesives. The award is Europe’s first prize for eco-entrepreneurs and start-ups in the circular economy and, this year, the committee received more than 200 applications from all across Europe.

“Being a partner of the Green Alley Award for the first time, we at H2 Compliance were really happy to see how many start-ups in Europe are rethinking the “Old Economy” by introducing sustainable and disruptive business models. Now more than ever, it is fundamental to support start-ups that address the circular economy. Hopefully, one day, “waste” will be a term that is not used anymore and the loop will be fully closed.” said Grant Kinsman, CEO of H2 Compliance.

The Green Alley Award was launched in 2014 by the Landbell Group, one of Europe’s leading environmental and compliance service providers, in order to support start-ups with ideas for the circular economy. Today, award partners include the crowdfunding platform Seedmatch; the London accelerator programme, Bethnal Green Ventures; European Recycling Platform (ERP) Finland; and R2Pi, an EU-funded Horizon 2020 project.

This November, the following six finalists will compete live on stage with a five-minute pitch in front of an international audience of circular economy experts and start-ups:

Mimergy
They’re black, round, and carry us from A to B: we’re talking about tyres. And yet few people know where they end up or how they’re recycled after decommission. We dispose of one billion tyres globally per year, but have not yet developed an adequate solution for recycling them. Ireland, for example, currently exports up to 50 percent of its tyre waste abroad. The Irish start-up Mimergy has long recognised the resources contained in tyres; it uses a zero-waste process to extract biofuels, gases, and renewable carbon, among other things.

Newcy
The numbers are clear: disposable cups have no future. In France alone, 4.7 billion of them land in the garbage annually. The French government has already put a stop to the generation of further disposable cup waste: starting in 2020, it will prohibit the use of all types of disposable cups. That’s where Newcy comes in. The Rennes-based start-up offers consumers the opportunity to keep drinking vending-machine coffee – with one major difference: the used cups are now thrown into a collecting machine, washed at a plant, then reused in the vending machine.

Solmove 
Streets that provide energy, fuel our electric cars and, at the same time, generate profit – sounds like pie in the sky? Well, it’s not. The Munich-based start-up Solmove has recognised the value of solar streets and has been working on the Voltstreet since 2014. Solmove’s technology is sustainable: the main components of the solar street are silicon and glass. The latter is up to 50 percent recyclable, as are the electronic components, and toxic or rare materials are not used. The start-up is already working on additional features like LED lighting, heat emission, and traffic sensors.

Sulapac
Creating eco-friendly packaging material that’s also visually pleasing – that’s the mission of Finnish start-up, Sulapac. Unlike most of the packaging industry, the company’s two founders rely on a sustainable material made of wood and natural adhesives. Sulapac’s eco-packaging exhibits plastic-like properties, but is 100 percent degradable. But, unlike other biodegradable packaging alternatives, it’s dense and can be safely filled with oil or water. The Finns want to start by leaving their positive footprint in cosmetics and luxury packaging.

Sulfotools
So-called peptides, biochemically composed of amino acids, are often hidden in creams, drugs, and dietary supplements. Large amounts of solvents are used in their industrial production, some of which are harmful to the environment and human health. Sulfotools, a spin-off of Darmstadt University, wants to offer manufacturers an eco-friendly alternative with its so-called Clean Peptide Technology, which saves on hazardous waste as well as material costs. The use of water rather than organic solvents is the key to the technology. According to Sulfotools, the result is a reduction of up to 50 percent in the cost of peptide production.

Sustonable
The Dutch start-up Sustonable wants to give recycled PET a second chance so it’s developed a composite material consisting of quartz and PET. In 2015 alone, more than 1.8 million tonnes of PET bottles were collected and recycled across Europe; the base material is thus available in large quantities. Sustonable offers its customers a material harder than granite which is also 100 percent recyclable. The product is similar in appearance to natural stone, available in a variety of colours, and can be used in many different ways: as kitchen worktops, for bathroom cladding, or in furniture production.