Waste Not

Arizona State University and city of Phoenix call for ventures that innovate for waste prevention and diversion

After a successful launch with nine initial ventures, Arizona State University, named the most innovative school in the nation by U.S. News and World Report for three straight years, in collaboration with the city of Phoenix, named the Top Performing City overall by Governing and Living Cities, renew a call for innovators and entrepreneurs to participate in the RISN Incubator, a diverse solutions business development and accelerator program.

The RISN Incubator assists aspiring new ventures that focus on waste diversion and improvements in processing or utilization of waste as a raw material for new products or energy in the early stages of development. Selected enterprises receive unique access to resources and support from ASU and Phoenix to develop their solutions that contribute to the regional development of a vibrant circular economy.

“We are excited to welcome a new cohort of innovators into the RISN Incubator network that will help drive a vibrant circular economy in this region, a goal our partners at the city of Phoenix are committed to fostering alongside ASU,” said Alicia Marseille, director of the RISN Incubator. “Our initial cohort has seen their ventures receive additional funding, be honored with innovation awards and go through acquisitions from larger corporations.”

The RISN Incubator provides technical assistance, access to technical experts including university faculty and departments like the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering for their advancement, workshops and training, business plan and growth strategy development, access to feedstock from Phoenix’s waste transfer station, and a process for continuous evaluation and pre-qualification for funding opportunities with introductions to funders.

“By cultivating public-private partnerships to turn trash into new products, the city of Phoenix Public Works Department continues to drive the circular economy while stimulating local economic development. This call helps us move forward in continuing to support new ventures, increase our waste diversion rate and create economic impact in our city.” said Ginger Spencer Phoenix Public Works director.

Start-up concepts eligible for the incubator include, but are not limited to: conversion of solid waste into new material or energy; services that divert, reuse, or recycle; and software applications and design services that focus on sustainability. The priority waste feedstocks that the successful ventures will have access to include plastics, batteries, carpeting and carpet foam, broken furniture, mattresses, textiles, food waste, compost and plastic film.

The original cohort commenced in September 2017 with nine ventures that recently concluded their mentorship period within the incubator. Companies within the original cohort included:
Renewlogy, developer of a proprietary chemical recycling process that allows plastic to be reversed back into its basic molecular structure, converting non-recycled plastic waste into new valuable products such as high-value fuels. Renewlogy was a winner of the 2017 Arizona Innovation Open.
Hathority, which specializes in software integration and application development in order to make societal impacts such as reduce landfill waste, improve recycling and change customer behavior.
Hygeia, an AI-based sorting device that will efficiently sort waste streams into categorizes such as compost, landfill and recyclables.

“The RISN Incubator has catalyzed our ability to do business better,” says Rhonda Steele, Business Development Director for Hathority. “We are experiencing fast growth, and the Incubator’s ability to mentor us at this stage has been key to our progress. Being part of a cohort of amazing and committed entrepreneurs has opened additional doors for collaboration and partnership opportunities we would not otherwise have had.”

Marseille will be a featured judge with the 2018 Sustainable Brands Innovation Open, which culminates in a final presentation and exhibition at Sustainable Brands’ annual conference in Vancouver in June. The winning venture from that challenge will be granted an invitation to join the Fall 2018 RISN Incubator cohort if their business plan meets the Incubator’s mission of developing a circular economy.

This call for innovators and entrepreneurs is open until April 27. For more information including the application, visit RISNincubator.asu.edu.

bites mobile app connects a circular culinary experience

bites is a farm-to-table mobile app that connects foodies with local chefs who support local farms by sourcing ingredients from those farms and taking those fresh, seasonal ingredients into the home of the foodie to create a complete dining experience in the foodie’s own kitchen. bites seeks to create experiences that impact people and the planet in beneficial ways, at three levels: 1) by offering culinary adventures at all budgetary levels, in celebration of diversity and community building; 2) by economically empowering professional chefs, culinary students, and homemaker cooks; and 3) by giving visibility and support to local growers, increasing their profits, decreasing their waste, and diverting waste from landfills.

Want to learn more about bites and their work? Listen to this interview with founder Roza Ferdowsmakan about bites and their continuous drive towards success.

Hygiea using AI to divert waste

Hygiea is a startup led by an Arizona State University engineering graduates and graduate students. They are taking the waste out of waste management with avant-garde sorting technologies. “Smart-Sort” is an AI based sorting device that will efficiently sort waste streams into categorizes such as compost, landfill, recyclables, etc. Their aim is to use various types of technologies that will drive consumer’s to change their behaviors, educate consumers, create highly sorted waste streams, reduce contamination and eventually reduce the amount of waste overall. They were recently one of five finalists in the ASU Avnet Open and are currently in the RISN Incubator working to scale their technology.

Want to learn more about Hygiea and their work? Listen to this interview with founder Saiman Shetty about Hygiea and their continuous drive towards success.

ASU Graduate Students: Call to Innovate at the Cisco Circular Economy Challenge


Internet of Things. Big Data. Blockchain. Digital disruptions are transforming the way we do business and creating new opportunities to address social and environmental challenges. As we enter the “fourth industrial revolution,” how might these new technologies help us transition from our linear “take, make, waste” economy toward a system that is more circular and sustainable over the long-term?

ASU graduate students are invited to answer this question at the Cisco Circular Economy Challenge, an interdisciplinary competition offering $2800 in prizes. In this challenge, teams of students will become Cisco entrepreneurs developing innovative solutions to market opportunities. Teams will apply Cisco and Internet technologies to global problems and opportunities faced by Cisco customers-developing new products and solutions that enable customer success and accelerate the transition to the Circular Economy.

“The competition will present students with a real business challenge we are tackling at Cisco right now,” says Abbey Burns, Cisco Sustainability Manager and member of the judging panel. “We are excited to see what the teams come up with.”

Students interested in competing must form a three- to five-person team in advance and register online. The competition is open to all graduate students at ASU. Participating teams will receive the specific challenge a week before the March 23rd competition, giving them time to research, formulate ideas, interview experts, and practice their presentations.

“We’re at the number one school for innovation, so I can’t wait to see our students apply their creativity to move us closer to a circular economy,” says Eve Richer, W. P. Carey MBA Student Eve Richer and event organizer as part of a Circular Economy Innovation Project for the Schmidt MacArthur Fellowship. “It should be a fun event and a great chance for students to learn and network.”

Important dates are summarized below:

  • February 20: Optional Information Session
  • February 23: Priority deadline for team registration
  • March 16: Student challenge released
  • March 23: Full-day competition; teams present to judging panel
  • RISN Incubator venture Renewlogy named winner of 2017 Arizona Innovation Challenge

    Renewlogy, a waste-to-energy venture, took home up a $250,000 prize as a as they were named a winner in the bi-annual business plan competition, ACA’s Innovation Challenge.

    The Arizona Innovation Challenge is aimed at providing funding to early-stage companies in high growth industries. A combined total of $1.5 million in funding is awarded, with the goal of advancing innovation and the commercialization of technologies within Arizona. Through this, the competition aims to create sustainable and growing businesses in Arizona, or help out of state companies establish themselves within Arizona.

    Renewlogy, one of the RISN Incubator ventures, was founded at MIT by Priyanka Bakaya. She has passionately focused her career on the environment and energy, and has been recognized by Forbes 30 Under 30, Fortune 40 Under 40 Ones to Watch and others. She is a Stanford and MIT graduate. Renewology aims to become a tech leader in waste solutions and is passionate about developing innovative technologies to divert waste from landfills.

    Want to learn more about Renewlogy? Listen to this interview with founder Priyanka Bakaya about Renewlogy and her journey to success.

    RISN Incubator’s Alicia Marseille presents at 2017 Disruptive Innovation Festival

    Alicia Marseille, Director of the RISN Incubator, describes how the RISN Incubator uses the Circular Design Guide to advance early state Circular Economy ventures.

    The Disruptive Innovation Festival, or DIF, is a three-week long online and open access ideas festival. It seeks to answer the question “What if we could redesign everything?” through three main themes: 21st century economics, the age of automation and the future of design. The festival seeks to inspire attendees from all over the globe to seek innovation with inspiration from the open-source virtual content.

    Circular Economy is a major theme in the festival, as is the future of design. The RISN Incubator has integrated the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Circular Design Kit as a primary resource for its early stage ventures. This kit was used to create the Circular Design Challenge – a design based challenge to advance ventures looking to enter the RISN Incubator.

    In developing the design challenge, RISN Incubator’s own Veronica Head started with the Circular Design Kit. “It was a little overwhelming at first, I didn’t know where to start” she said. So, she created a map to help guide ventures through the design kit and broke down each workshop into what it addresses. From this, they developed a 12-week program to guide venture through their circular design challenges with the hope that after two workshops and three months of mentorship and resources the ventures will have strengthened their ideas.

    To date, four ventures have gone through the Circular Design Challenge and of those, two have already applied to and been accepted into the RISN Incubator. The Circular Design Challenge was also offered as a prize to the five winning teams of the Trash Hack to help students continue working on their circular economy based ventures after the hack. Through the emphasis on circular design, we hope to influence more growth in circular economy and help startups succeed.

    City of Phoenix’s Public Works Department Meets with RISN Incubator Ventures to Collaborate on Circular Economy and Waste Solutions

    The proverbial “knights” of the circular economy round table come together with the RISN Incubator to collaborate on their solutions for the future of a zero waste Phoenix.

    The RISN Incubator was created with a unique partnership in mind. One that would allow for collaboration between public and private industries, and for the ultimate success of circular economy. This is the RISN Incubator’s unique partnership with the City of Phoenix, which allows ventures direct access to the city’s resources and own staff and creates collaboration on a whole new scale. On October 25th, business ventures in the incubator met with the city’s public works department in the first of many round tables.

    During the meeting, 7 ventures were present, which included Blue Green Recycle, Bites, Global Guardian Project, Hygeia, Renewology, Nektar Energy, and Trash Zero. Of these ventures, 3 are actively pursuing partnerships and pilot projects with the City of Phoenix to convert waste to energy and convert waste to useful construction materials.

    The meeting was started by Ginger Spencer, the head of Public Works for Phoenix. She shared the city’s Reimagine Phoenix initiative to increase waste diversion to 40% by the year 2020. She also described the city’s vision beyond 2020. They recognize that landfills and waste need to become a thing of the past, to guarantee a viable future for future generations, and shared the city’s goal to become zero waste by 2050. Ginger was joined by other members of the city which included Brandie Barrett, Lucas Mariacher, Chuck Hamstra, and Joe Guidice. Brandie discussed how the city restructured its policy to allow new businesses to set up projects with the city and use their waste. Lucas shared the city’s zero waste goals and current education and outreach projects. Chuck and Joe provided their expertise on how the city’s waste collection and sorting currently works.

    After introductions from the city, ventures were able to ask questions during a Q-and-A session to the panel of experts and stakeholders they need. Businesses like Renewology and Nektar Energy sought out how to start pilot projects with the city to take their more troublesome waste materials and convert them into energy with no emissions. Hygeia aims to use sorting technologies to make trash collection more efficient. Other ventures like Blue Green Recycle and Global Guardian Project wanted to know how they can work with the city to educate consumers on how and what to recycle. Bites, a foodie app, sought out advice on how to connect with small, urban, and local farmers to stop food waste from even happening in the first place.

    All in all, the first round table was a hit, and a great start to the future of collaboration between public and private industries, united to achieve circular economy. The next City of Phoenix/RISN Incubator Round Table will be held on Tuesday, November 21st at 2 PM.

    First RISN Incubators announced!

    The Resource Innovation and Solutions Network (RISN) and the RISN Incubator are excited to announce our first group of ventures:

    • Hathority, LLC
    • +swappow
    • bites
    • Renewlogy
    • Trash Zero Inc.
    • The Global Guardian Project
    • Hygiea “Smart-Sort”
    • Blue Green Recycle
    • Nektar Energy®

    Learn more about each of these amazing innovators on the Ventures page.

    RISN Incubator Trash Hack seeks to redesign the future of plastics

    In a 24 hour weekend-long event, Trash Hack seeks to train new entrepreneurs and rethink solid waste, guided by experts in solid waste and entrepreneurship.

    According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, by the year 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean. This shocking statistic begs the question, “What can we do about it?” That’s why we created Trash Hack – a new type of hackathon to reimagine the future of plastics. In the course of a short weekend, this hackathon aimed to create hacks – or disruptive and entrepreneurial solutions – to address plastic waste.

    On September 29th, 46 students – across seceral different majors – set forth to challenge plastic waste, and design solutions ranging from software solutions to physical products. After the opening ceremony, and a speech from Dr. Thomas Seager, an Associate Professor at ASU, that was half a motivational speech and half a call to action, students set forth to design a solution that re imagines the future of plastics.

    After forming teams based on united ideas, students sought for inspiration and advice from experts in solid waste. During the plastics panel, Alana Levine from ASU Facilities Zero Waste Initiative and Lucas Mariacher from the City of Phoenix’s Solid Waste Department described the problems with plastic waste, and the different types of waste feedstock.

    Throughout the course of the weekend, student teams had access to hardware tools – like Raspberry Pis, Arduinos, and Sensors – and prototyping tools, including 3D printers, to make their ideas happen. Teams also had access to expert mentors and workshops to help them learn skills in programming and 3D design.

    Fun events to take a break from hacking were mixed throughout the weekend, like a four square tournament. Saiman Shetty, an ASU grad who works at Tesla and his own startup, Hygeia – as well as Roza Ferdowsmakan, local tech attorney, who is working on an app called bites to connect foodies, chefs, and farmers – came to lead a late night storytelling series on entrepreneurship.

    Team Recycleanse, winner of the Trash Hack.
    At the end of the weekend, the winning team – Recycleanse – took home a Makerbot 3D printer for their idea to use hardware and software to provide data analytics to decrease contamination in recycling. The remaining teams took home entry into RISN Incubator’s Design Challenge to advance their ideas:

    • Cliffhangr’s idea to create an outdoors brand and climbing products that use upcycled plastics to save the environment while creating quality gear
    • SmartBin’s plan to use camera sensors in trash bins to collect data on recycling, and incentivize good recycling with data
    • Peker’s idea to use hard to recycle plastic films to make contraceptives
    • AgroCode’s project to create a vertical garden using upcycled K Cups and PVC pipe