The Circularity Challenge is a six-month accelerator program designed to advance innovative solutions to enable a circular economy. The five participants are disrupting the plastics, energy storage, and recycling value chains. The Circularity Challenge is run by Greentown Launch—Greentown Labs’ internal accelerator—and BASF, and supported by Stanley Black & Decker.
When you pick up something at the grocery store, it has a nutrition label. You find out exactly what ingredients are in the product, and often even learn about the facility where it was manufactured. As a customer, you have the necessary knowledge to make an informed decision.
That’s not the case with most manufactured items, which poses a roadblock to circularity. Circularise brings together detailed information about a product from every stage of the supply chain, giving both businesses and customers insight into the product’s sustainability.
Circularise co-founder Mesbah Sabur found that applying his product design background to sustainability efforts gave him a sense of purpose. He completed a master’s thesis focused on the circular economy and roadblocks that stand in the way. Transparency jumped out as a major problem, and Circularise became Sabur’s solution.
“The issue is clearly transparency in the way products are designed and communicated throughout the whole supply chain,” Sabur explains. “If you throw a laptop away, the recycling companies have a very hard time figuring out the material composition.”
Privacy concerns are the main reason there isn’t transparency throughout supply chains—companies don’t want to give out their “recipe.” But Circularise allows companies to securely share insights regarding their “ingredients” by using blockchain and zero-knowledge proof (a technique in cryptography that protects the “recipe” while allowing to share valuable information about the “ingredients”).
If the “recipe” changes, so does the information Circularise provides. This gives customers verifiable information about the sustainability of a product.
“There’s a level of quality to your material that you can prove easily,” Sabur says. “There is a lot of demand from customers—many customers are looking for this information.”
The Netherlands-based, eight-person company is running pilots in the plastics and textiles industries, and aims to scale in 2020.
Circularise is focused on working with manufacturers at the start of the supply chain, and so its team was eager to work with BASF through the Circularity Challenge.
Sabur says he has been impressed by BASF’s demonstrated commitment to sustainability and engaging startups. Circularise has weekly calls with key champions at both BASF and Stanley Black & Decker, and Sabur says they made as much progress with the corporates in the first two months of the Circularity Challenge as they have with other companies in six months.
“It’s about finding use cases, defining how the actual value is being extracted, as well as doing some technical deep dives,” Sabur says of their weekly calls.
“The way Greentown is pushing corporates to get out of their comfort zones, the way Greentown is managing that, is really exceptional,” he adds.
Greentown Labs is a community of bold, passionate entrepreneurs creating solutions for today’s biggest climate and environmental challenges. Located in Somerville, Mass., the Greentown Labs Global Center for Cleantech Innovation is the largest cleantech incubator in North America, operating a 100,000 sq. ft. campus comprised of prototyping and wet lab space, shared office space, a machine shop, electronics lab, and a curated suite of programs and resources. Greentown Labs is home to more than 100 startups and has supported more than 230 since its inception.