Waste Not

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

Turning trash into cash

by Alicia Marseille
Director, RISN Incubator

The amount of garbage and solid waste humans throw away is rising fast and won’t peak this century without transformational changes unless we reduce, reuse, and redesign materials.

In the 2012 World Bank report What a Waste: A Global Review of Solid Waste Management the trajectory of global solid waste was estimated. In 2010, there was roughly 3.5 million tons of waste produced per day globally. They estimate that there will be more than 6 million tons per day produced by 2025.

Circular Economy, coined by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, looks to innovation to force change beyond the current linear model of ‘take, make, and waste’ to create a model that is regenerative and restorative. A report released last year, The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the future of plastics by the World Economic Forum, Ellen MacArthur Foundation and McKinsey and Co., discovered that today only 14% of plastic packaging is collected for recycling globally. This means that the rest is either incinerated, landfilled or ends up littering the ocean. If production and consumption continues and follows the same trends, by 2050 our oceans could contain more plastics than fish, by weight.

These figures are daunting. Two large community stakeholders, Arizona State University and the City of Phoenix, decided to collaborate to actively create change in this space. One of these areas of change includes the Resource Innovation Solutions Network (RISN) Incubator that is based on circular economy. The RISN Incubator works with early stage ventures through a customized program to scale their ventures.

The RISN Incubator is part of ASU’s larger RISN umbrella. RISN’s role is to bring together university, regional government, business and non-governmental partners to transform the relationship between resources, the environment, people and the economy. The goal is to implement sustainable solutions that create a resource-focused circular economy platform that makes urban areas healthier, more livable, resilient and efficient.

I first came to ASU in May 2017 as the Director of the RISN Incubator, and I’ve never been so excited to come to work every day. The ventures we are working with have tapped into a growing market opportunity of turning waste into resources as there is a tremendous amount of value in the waste stream. These ventures are literally turning ‘trash into cash’ as Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton would say. On top of the work with the ventures we are working university wide with faculty and staff, students, and with stakeholders like the City of Phoenix, and we are collaborating to catalyze change that can be repeated and scaled in solving these global challenges.