An end to recycling old ideas
Most of us want to do our bit to save the planet. We’re aware of the ongoing risk of climate change. We’ve all watched David Attenborough’s Blue Planet documentary, and we’ve watched the Facebook videos of our oceans filled with plastic, and our sea life swimming amongst dozens of empty drink cans. But after seeing these saddening sites, do we actually try to do anything about it?
Well, like most citizens of the western world, I’m sure you’ll probably have two or three bins in your kitchen. One for rubbish, one for food waste and one for recycling. Like creatures of habit, we put the bins out on the curb once a week and wait for the bin men to pick them up. Job done! We’ve recycled all our rubbish from last week, and made a small but important contribution to saving the planet.
But how often do you really stop and think about what happens to your recycling after it gets picked up by the bin men? Where does it actually go? How much of it is recycled back into new products of the same value?
Where does all the recycling go?
The collection trucks deposit the contents of the recycling bins in a large pile at a material recovery facility where the mixed materials are cleaned and sorted as best as possible, before being sent off to be sold on to material processors who prepare it for sale to a manufacturer.
Sadly, here in the west we produce way more recycling than the material processors want.
The current domestic curb-side recycling collection and processing system has been in operation for more than 20 years in developed countries across the globe.
Despite all the money that has been invested into the development and promotion of recycling in countries like the UK, US and Australia, more than half of household recyclable material is currently still not being recycled. It still ends up in landfill, incinerated or exported off to south-east Asian countries and less than ten percent is re-manufactured into its original product.
The ReCircle Recycling Solution
ReCircle Recycling aims to use its patented technology to address the problem of our beautiful used material being sent to landfill. CEO and Co-Founder, Aldous Hicks has over 30 years’ experience as a technology and software developer, project manager and mechanical engineer, and has developed both water and material recycling technology. He has now turned his attention to the recycling economy, founding ReCircle Recycling to create a solution that will empower consumers while shifting course from current unsustainable and inefficient waste disposal systems.
ReCircle Recycling is developing a 100% closed-loop domestic recycling appliance. Closed-loop recycling means that at the end of a product's useful life it can be re-manufactured back into its original product, closing the resource loop. The ReCircle appliance for home or business will use a sensor to identify and never allow two materials made of different substances to be put together, then wash, flake, crush or grind them separately for storage in the bottom of the appliance. This reusable product will then be collected through the company’s logistics network, and the consumer will be reimbursed for the by-weight value of the ReProducts, the products produced by ReCircle appliances.
ReCircle Recycling technology will process used materials to a high standard that the size-reduced ReProducts can be used right away by manufacturers. This guarantees a 100% closed-loop on glass, aluminium, tin-steel and plastic products. This also means that glass bottles will be re-made into bottles, cans back into cans, and plastic containers to plastic containers.
The appliance does this by using sensors to ensure the user places the used container in the correct receptacle. Incorrectly placed items will not be accepted thereby removing the human error in the complicated task of identifying material types on hard to read labels.
A ReCircle appliance is designed to be installed into your home, office or anywhere else used-materials exist such as universities, building sites, music festivals, hospitals, factories or football stadiums.
The funding journey so far…
The idea for the company was formed many years ago in Australia. However, July 2018 was when Hicks decided to bring the idea to the UK. As the company needed investors, it seemed like the best course of action, as equity funding platforms such as Crowdcube and Seedrs have been around a lot longer in the UK compared to equity crowdfunding campaigns in the US or Australia.
“One of the best things about funding in the UK is that we’re able to do crowdfunding for equity. We’re unfortunately not at the stage where we can offer investors an appliance for them to buy as we’re currently at the pre-prototype stage. So crowdfunding for equity is the best option for us right now!” explained Hicks.
The company has just completed a successful equity crowdfunding campaign on CrowdCube. The original target was to raise £500,000 but ReCircle Recycling overfunded and managed to raise £553,260 with the help of just over 500 investors who now have an approximate 17% equity share in the company.
The biggest challenges
“For early stage, pre-prototype startups that won’t have an income or a saleable product within the next 18 months there is virtually no funding opportunities. It’s been a very difficult process to fund a startup by the normal, professional, corporate routes.
“It’s also been challenging as many of the high net worth individuals, angels, venture capitalists and seed investors have loved the idea of the ReCircle Recycling appliance! But they want us to come back to them when we have a prototype. During the development of a physical equipment technology related prototype, you’ll typically need to employ highly experienced technologists across mechanical and electronic sectors amongst others which obviously costs quite a bit of money. This is where crowdfunding through Crowdcube really helped us.” said Hicks.
ReCircle Recycling has already begun its prototype process and will be focusing on the creation of that for the next chapter of the company. The aim is to get the prototype finished within the next 12-15 months.
Sadly the first roll-out of the prototype will not be in the UK. Hicks believes this is because the British population hasn’t been able to convince the Government to put deposit return systems in place.
Deposit return schemes add a small deposit onto the cost of drinks which is refunded to the consumer when the container is returned. Hence, the incentive for consumers to recycle their drinks containers is much greater. Containers, such as glass, can be refilled and others such as cans can be recycled, eliminating wastage of the containers. Therefore, the country is missing the opportunity to recycle millions of plastic bottles every day.
However, some states in the US, such as California, already have an equivalent system in place and have done since 1987. Therefore the prototype will be rolled-out in various US states, who also apparently have much bigger kitchens (more room for the appliance) than us UK citizens!