In Rotterdam, BlueCity is a Circular Economy incubator for companies developing technologies that create products from waste. So far they have about 12 companies that are working within their facilities – which are located in a defunct indoor tropical swimming centre called Tropicana. Instead of tearing down the building, this group has gone in to give it a second life. In terms of the kinds of businesses they have been incubating, here is how they explain it:
The entrepreneurs located in BlueCity all connect their waste-streams in different ways. The coffee-waste that is produced by Aloha Bar-Restaurant serves as nutritious soil for the mushrooms of RotterZwam. The carbon dioxide that is released in the process is used by Spireaux for the creation of Spirulina, and in BlueCity Lab mycelium is used to develop packaging materials. Of course, to complete this perfect circle, you will ultimately find the mushrooms that grew on the coffee waste of Aloha on the menu of the same restaurant. [source]
They recently launched the BlueCity Circular Challenge in which they challenged multi-disciplinary teams of students and young professionals to come up with solutions to some chronic waste problems. Four companies offered up their waste streams to see if the teams could come up with a marketable product from the waste. The waste streams were:
- disposable coffee cups,
- the filtered-out waste from sewage treatment plants (ie., sanitary products and flushable wipes, etc… – stuff that isn’t even supposed to go into the sewage system but ends up there anyway),
- electric meters made out of Bakelite,
- the horticultural business left if up to the team to decide which waste stream to address.
The winner was the team that took the filtered-out waste and turned it into a substrate for green roofs. It turns out that all those products (sanitary napkins, tampons, wipes…) are also highly absorbent, meaning they can soak up a lot of liquid. That makes them a great starting product for a green roof base because they can hold enough water to help get the plants going and can absorb rain really well while diverting rain from the sewer system. The idea is to sterilize, dry and compress the waste into tiles, and then use it in green roofs as a substrate. The team won €5,000 and a place at BlueCity to further explore their idea.
For more on the BlueCity Circulars, visit the BlueCity website (although it’s mostly in Dutch, there are several English blog posts, including the one featuring the four waste challenges): http://www.bluecity.nl/blog/bluecity-circular-challenge-the-winner-takes-it-all/