Innovators in the Circular Carbon Economy

by Orion van Ravesteyn

Circular carbon refers to the idea of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by recycling or reusing carbon in a circular economy. This concept is gaining support as the world looks for ways to reduce carbon emissions in the fight against climate change.

The circular carbon economy is based on a circular economy, which aims to keep resources in use for as long as possible and reduce waste. In the circular carbon economy, carbon is viewed as a valuable resource that can be reused and recycled, rather than a waste product that needs to be discarded.

The circular carbon economy's key components:

  • Firstly, carbon capture, which involves capturing carbon emissions from industrial processes and power generation. This carbon can be stored underground or used to create carbon-based products.
  • The second component is carbon utilization, which involves using carbon to create new products. For example, carbon can be used to create building materials, such as concrete, or to create fuels, such as biofuels.
  • Lastly, carbon recycling, which involves the recycling of carbon-based products. For example, plastics can be recycled and used to create new products, reducing the need for new carbon-based materials.

The circular carbon economy benefits:

  • It reduces greenhouse gas emissions by capturing and reusing carbon. This helps to mitigate the effects of climate change.
  • The use of non-renewable resources is reduced, such as oil and gas. By recycling and reusing carbon, the circular carbon economy can reduce the need for new carbon-based materials.
  • The circular carbon economy can create new economic opportunities. By creating new products and industries based on carbon, the circular carbon economy can create jobs and stimulate economic growth.
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Challenges to implementing a circular carbon economy;

  • The high cost of carbon capture and utilisation technologies.
  • The need for policy and regulatory frameworks that support the circular carbon economy.

Despite these challenges, the circular carbon economy has the potential to be a key tool in the fight against climate change. By reducing greenhouse gas emissions and creating new economic opportunities, the circular carbon economy can help to create a more sustainable future.

Europe’s aim is to reach net zero by 2050, making Europe the first climate-neutral continent set out by The European Green Deal. With the aim set out, this transitions Europe towards a circular economy, reducing pressure on natural resources and creating sustainable economic growth as well as jobs.

Within the last few years, Europe has set out multiple laws supporting the shift to a circular economy, such as banning single-use plastics, having set targets for separate collection of textiles and bio-waste and having targets for recycling.

Here are a few companies helping to build the circular carbon economy, that have made waves and have set out to make a real difference:

1. Winnow

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There are around 199,000 tonnes of food waste every year, yet 8.4 million people are in food poverty in the UK. Founded in 2013 by Marc Zornes and Kevin Duffy, Winnow measures what food gets thrown away and identifies ways to rescue waste within the hospitality sector. Using an AI-enabled tool, commercial kitchens are able to track all food waste, cut costs and save time, with a system that takes photos of wasted food as it's thrown away and recognises what's been thrown in the bin. They have made approximately 50% reduction in food waste from over a thousand kitchens that use their monitoring technology which has led to around 23 million meals and approximately 39 thousand tonnes of CO2 being saved. Winnow has made a significant impact across 40 different countries with some of their clients being IKEA, Hilton and Emirates Flight Catering and have raised a total of $31.9M over 7 funding rounds with lead investors European Investment Bank, The Ingenious Group and D-Ax Corporate Venture Capital.

2. HYLA Mobile

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Roughly 155,000 tonnes of electrical appliances end up in landfills and are not disposed of properly, which leads to toxic substances such as lead and mercury leaching into soil and water and in the end causing huge environmental issues as it can take anywhere from 50 to a million years for e-waste to decompose and is far more likely to pollute the environment than it is to biodegrade, according to Maple Leaf. HYLA Mobile has taken the necessary steps to help with e-waste and has reused more than 50 million devices, making $4 billion for their owners and stopping roughly 6,500 tons of e-waste from ending up in landfill. Hyla Mobile has raised $145.1M over 4 funding rounds with lead investors OPENAIR Equity Partners, Kleiner Perkins, Silver Lake and SJF Ventures.

3. Carbominer

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Founded in 2020 by Nick Oseyko and Viktoria Oseyko, Carbominer was started with the goal of leaving a better world for future generations by developing new technology that will capture carbon dioxide. They provide green CO₂ as a service to commercial clients who aim to transition to sustainable operations. Carbominer is definitely one to watch with plans to establish a production facility in eastern Poland! They have made an impressive impact so far raising $953.1k in a seed round with lead investors SMRK VC Fund and Climate Innovation Vouchers.

4. Climeworks

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Founded in 2009 by Dr Christoph Gebald and Dr Jan Wurzbacher have made it their goal to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius which requires both drastic emissions reduction and carbon dioxide removal. Climework has developed an innovative technology called “direct air capture” which removes excess carbon dioxide directly from the air, so it will no longer contribute to climate change. With the help of their partners, Climeworks provide permanent, measurable and scalable carbon dioxide removal services and are most definitely one to watch!

5. Cirplus

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Christian Schiller and Nicolas Brusson founded Cirplus in 2018 with the goal to make plastic 100% circular, serving as the digital catalyst of the circular economy. They have raised 3.3 million euros in 2 seed funding rounds and continue to grow as the global marketplace for recyclates and plastic waste feedstock. Cirplus prides itself in the fact that they provide efficiency, and reliability in procurement and standard setting. Going global is most definitely in sight and is a company to keep an eye out for as they expand!

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