cleantech insights

Web-Based Recycling: a Consumer-Centric Approach to Waste

Leo Zhang

The cleanweb theme has received positive attention from venture capital and corporate investors in its innovating business model of connecting cleantech innovation with the web. Recall Cleantech Group’s Cleanweb and the City event (and associated White Paper), which highlighted some of the latest innovations in urban mobility, waste management, and energy management.  Drilling down on how cleanweb has impacted the Recycling & Waste sector, let’s look at the Web-Based Recycling subsector, the investment trends and some of the leading companies in this space. As the chart below illustrates, the web-based recycling sector attracted a series of equity investments, including several mega deals in 2008.


Let’s take a closer look at the latest innovations on web-based recycling:

Recyclebank, the New York-based developer of a financial rewards system for household recycling, is working towards the ultimate goal of changing conusmer’s behavior in an effort to increase their recycling effort.

Gazelle, the Massachusettes-based provider of an online recommerce service, allows consumers to easily recycle and get paid for their used electronics. In addition, ReCellular, the Michigan-based online marketplace, is also working on similar projects.

thredUP, the California-based provider of an online platform for used clothing, allows consumers to …


The Week in Cleantech: Oct. 28 – Nov. 3


A note to regular readers of this blog – this will be our final “The Week in Cleantech” post. Beginning next week, in an effort to bring you more focused content on specific clean technology sectors, we’ll begin posting highlights of specific deals and why they matter in relation to a broader sector. Now, let’s look at some highlights from last week:

eRecycling CorpsPerhaps influenced by the successful exit of ecoATM in July by investors including Claremont Creek Ventures and Tao Venture Capital Partners, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Silver Lake Kraftwerk last week pumped $105 million in Series C growth capital into eRecyclingCorps, a company similarly pursuing incentivized recycling of personal electronics. Instead of setting up a network of kiosks, however, eRecyclingCorps builds trade-in programs in partnership with the all largest mobile phone carriers. Founded in 2009, the company, which also counts SJF Ventures and NGEN Partners as investors, has said it intends to use the funds to support potential acquisitions, geographic expansion and new products and services.

Harvest AutomationThe Agriculture sector again proved to be on the minds of venture investors last week as Harvest Automation, a Massachusetts-based developer of robotic technology for agricultural applications, raised …

The Week in Cleantech: September 9-15

i3 Research Team

Cleantech startups cleaned up this week, with a number of venture rounds closed. Enlighted, Recovery Technology Solutions, Isotrak, Plaxica, Space-Time Insight and Engineered Carbon Solutions all raised venture rounds. In addition, SolarCity received $124 million in Project Finance from Direct Energy and others to finance commercial and industrial solar projects. On the IPO front, SunEdison formalized plans to spin off its semiconductor manufacturing unit via a $250 million IPO. SunEdison Semiconductor would trade under the former MEMC Electronic Materials’ symbol of WFR. The unit reported $917.5 million in revenue in 2012.

Jumping back to venture financing, Enlighted, a California-based provider of lighting control systems for energy management applications, raised $5 million from EDBI to help scale its global operations and bring its solutions to Singapore and other Asian markets. Recovery Technology Solutions, a Minnesota-based developer of extraction and recycling of asphalt projects, raised $16.5 million from US Renewables Group. Space-Time Insight, a California-based provider of situation intelligence software to utilities, O&G, telecom and transportation companies, raised $20 million in Series A funding from EnerTech Capital , Novus Energy Partners , Opus Capital Ventures and Zouk Capital to take its services to new …

On site: BlackGold Biofuels in action

Kate McArdle

Last week, I went with a few of my colleagues to visit San Francisco’s Water Pollution Control Plant, where one of the Entrepreneur Showcase presenting companies, BlackGold Biofuels, has a facility that turns sewer grease into biofuel. The grease found in sewers is a big concern for utilities, and San Francisco alone estimates it spends $50 million/year on costs associated with sewer grease. BlackGold’s system not only alleviates the grease problem, it turns it into a profitable product.

Over at the plant, Emily Landsburg, BlackGold’s CEO, and Alexandre Miot, a Process Engineer at the plant, gave us a tour of BlackGold’s setup, which is the first commercial facility of its kind in the U.S.

On stage in New York: Climax Global Energy

Lisa Sibley

This week’s Pitch o’ the Week company, Climax Global Energy, is a presenting company in the Entrepreneur Showcase at the Cleantech Group’s New York Forum, going on through today. The Entrepreneur Showcase provides capital-seeking cleantech innovators with 10 minutes to pitch top cleantech investors, financiers and corporate buyers.

The Fairfax, S.C.-based company coverts landfill-bound plastics into high value synthetic oil for the clean diesel, syn-lube and wax markets with its patented microwave-assisted pyrolysis process. There is about a $5 billion to $6 billion lube market opportunity in the United States alone, and a $3 billion wax market, according to CEO John Griffith.

Its pyrolysis process essentially cuts plastics (which are long chain polymers) into shorter chain polymers to make synthetic oil. Pyrolysis is a process in which a substance is heated in the absence of oxygen and typically occurs under pressure and at operating temperatures of more than 430°C (800°F), although Climax’s process runs near atmospheric pressure.

The company has a commercial-scale prototype in South Carolina with a 3-ton/day capacity, with plans to start construction of its next reactor train this year at the same location. Additional locations are to follow in South Carolina, New Jersey and other …

Blue ocean market opportunities in waste plastic to fuel

Lisa Sibley

Today, more than 90 percent of global waste plastic winds up in landfills, sits on barges in the middle of the ocean, or is incinerated. The remainder is recycled in some form, a substantial portion of which is exported to countries such as China.

But this is expected to change as the waste-to-energy and nascent waste plastics-to-fuel/energy market specifically is poised to take off in the next 12 to 24 months, especially in the U.S. With governments trying to manage land use issues and oil and energy prices predicted to rise, regulation is driving this largely underserved “blue ocean” market. And everyone from large corporations and oil refiners to venture capitalists and entrepreneurs want a piece of the pie.

Other drivers include directives in Europe aimed at shutting down landfills and incentives such as H.R. 3592, the Plastics Recycling Act of 2009 in the U.S. Opportunities lie in converting waste plastics into energy, and specifically into liquids, synthetic crude oil, transportation fuels and industrial petrochemicals. There is a $5 billion to $6 billion lube market opportunity in the U.S., and a $3 billion wax market.

There are a number of technologies to address the market, ranging from liquefaction to …

Waste-to-fuel firm addressing major market opportunity

Lisa Sibley

Tigard, Ore.-based Agilyx Corp., formerly known as Plas2Fuel Corp., has raised approximately $8.5 million to date and is currently seeking Series B funding of up to $10 million.

As this week’s Pitch o’ the Week company, Agilyx has already raised $2.1 million in convertible debt. Existing investors in the company include Chrysalix Energy Venture Capital, Saffron Hill Ventures, and Reference Capital.

Agilyx CEO Chris Ulum told the Cleantech Group the private alternative energy company uses what it says is proven, commercially viable modular technology to convert difficult-to-recycle waste plastics, which typically end up in landfills, into synthetic crude oil and other valuable petrochemical products through a process that is scalable, versatile and environmentally friendly.

The company has been manufacturing and selling synthetic crude oil for about two years, deploying its first commercial system in 2008 in Tigard. The facility has a capacity of around 20,000 pounds per day of waste plastic, or the equivalent of about 55 barrels per day of oil, Ulum said.

Agilyx uses its patent pending process to “decompose” plastics back into hydrocarbons while separating undesirable organics (chlorine, bromine, etc.) entrained in the plastic, using what is known as “a continuous batch process.”…

UK opportunities abound in mixed, bio-based plastics recycling

Lisa Sibley

A new report out this month from Banbury, UK-based Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) snagged my attention today, offering updated insights into the UK market for recovered plastics.

According to the report, the UK continues to be dependent on export markets for recycling its recovered plastics. More than 700,000 tons of recovered plastics were exported last year for recycling, primarily to China (accessed via Hong Kong), with about two-thirds being packaging.

In 2009, about 900,000 tons of plastic was collected for recycling, including 590,000 tons of plastic packaging. The rate of plastic bottle recycling is now at more than 40 percent in the UK, with attention going to collecting and developing infrastructure to recycle mixed packaging plastics, the report suggests.

Mixed plastics are non-bottle plastic packaging from household waste streams, such as plastic trays and films. The UK’s first mixed plastic reprocessing facility is expected to launch in 2011, and this appears to be an area for potential growth.

Another UK market that’s still in its infancy also caught my eye: bio-based plastics, or plastics that come from crop or non-oil sources. Volumes are currently too low to make the recovery of such plastics economical, the report points …

Spotlight: MVR takes on recycled plastic resins in Kentucky

Lisa Sibley

Boca Raton, Fla.-based Mountain Valley Recycling (MVR) said today it dedicated a new 90 million pound per year recycled plastic resin manufacturing facility in Frankfort, Ky. The company manufactures high performance sustainable plastic resins.

MVR’s $9.2 million investment in the equipment and the 220,000-square-foot facility, previously home to an auto parts manufacturer, is expected to help boost the local economy and job market with 360 new hires. The company is backed by two private equity firms HG Global Equity and Boca Raton-based Laser Partners.

MVR specializes in re-engineered sustainable resins that can be customized for use in a variety of applications, including for consumer product manufacturers that are “trying to get ahead of the green curve,” MVR CEO Ron Whaley told the Cleantech Group today. The Cleantech Group offers research analysis and insight in the areas of waste and recycling. MVR says the carbon footprint of its resin is 70 percent less than that of a virgin resin.

Whaley said this is the first model facility for the 7-year-old company in the U.S., though it had a smaller facility in Tennessee focused on traditional recycling. The company is looking to bring “a cookie cutter approach” with the Kentucky facility to …

Genan to break ground on first US tire recycling plant

Emma Ritch

Danish tire recycler Genan expects to break ground before the end of the year on a scrap tire processing plant in Houston, Texas—the first U.S. plant for the self-proclaimed world’s largest tire recycler.

Director of Business Development Lars Raahauge told the Cleantech Group that Genan is waiting on permits for the plant with the capacity to process 65,000 metric tons of scrap tires each year.

The process has several outputs that can be sold. Each tire is deconstructed into 67 percent rubber granulate or powder, 18 percent steel, 14 percent textiles and 1 percent waste. The textiles are burned to produce energy.

Recycling prevents the harmful environmental effects from improper disposal while displacing the need for virgin rubber, Raahauge said. Recycled rubber can be made into artificial turf, athletic fields, thermal and acoustic insulation, roads, and playgrounds (see Saving the planet, one tire at a time?).

“It’s a very dull and simple thing, but very important,” Raahauge told the Cleantech Group.

Raahauge noted that tires are made from the best rubber, steel and textiles because manufacturers can’t risk compromising safety. The products are very valuable for resale, and the economic case is made better by government regulations that pay …