On October 16, IC²’s Austin Technology Incubator (ATI) introduced a fifth vertical within its portfolio group, a Circular Economy Incubator, to support entrepreneurs and startups whose mission is to provide solutions that contribute to a zero-waste world. ATI now operates one of only three circular economy incubators in the country.
ATI recognizes that moving forward with a circular economy incubator is a vital step toward solving one of the world’s most pressing problems: redesigning the reuse and recycling processes of circular products. Mark Sanders, currently COO of ATI, will also serve as director of the ATI Circular Economy Incubator.
Circular Economy: A global challenge
A circular economy works to maximize the life-cycle of products and materials by revolutionizing manufacturing processes to ensure the possibility of reuse and recycling. It’s estimated that 350 million tons of plastic are produced globally each year, and despite the efforts of manufacturers and consumers, little of this is ultimately recycled. Most is destined for landfill or joins the five trillion pieces of plastic polluting the world’s oceans. Taking up to 400 years to degrade, plastic is just one of many circular products that plague the environment.
ATI supporter of City of Austin’s Austin Resource Recovery Master Plan
ATI made the announcement at the first Circular Economy Roundup in collaboration with the City of Austin and Austin Resource Recovery whose focuses are on growing the zero waste industry in order to create well-paying local jobs, attract investment, and support the necessary infrastructure for a resilient circular economy in Central Texas. ATI Circular Economy member companies are a contributor to the City of Austin’s Austin Resource Recovery Master Plan which has a goal to reach Zero Waste by 2040 which means reducing the amount of discarded materials sent to landfills by 90 percent. Austin Resource Recovery is on board to contribute to this goal as well providing a wide range of services designed to transform waste into resources.
“There is no waste in nature – byproducts become the fertile soil that something else needs to grow. The vision of a circular economy is for that to become true of our cities as well, which is only possible with highly innovative entrepreneurs and an ecosystem of support around them,” said Natalie Betts, Recycling Economic Development Program Manager with the City of Austin. “The partnership with ATI is a major milestone on Austin’s journey to becoming a truly circular city.”
ATI Circular Economy Incubator
The ATI Circular Economy Incubator links entrepreneurs with academia, industry, and government to solve global challenges in design and reuse. Through customized and deep engagements, ATI works across Texas to co-design, pilot and test circular economy technology and business model innovations to find viable solutions to this global problem. Mitch Jacobson, director of ATI, emphasizes the incubator’s core focuses by describing how “We’re doubling down on deep tech, which involves trying to solve big problems with big solutions. That can be clean air, clean water, drugs around cancer or new carbon capture technology. Now, we add Circular Economy to that impactful list.”
Inaugural members of the Circular Economy portfolio include:
- ICON is a construction technologies company which is revolutionizing homebuilding through 3D printing.
- Smarter Sorting uses patented technology to turn incinerator bound consumer chemical waste into a product primed for reuse. Combining big data, smart tech and business know how, Smarter Sorting is leading the way in pushing for a truly circular economy.
- Leaf & Flour’s process turns distillery by-products into flour for food production (in pre-incubation).
- City taps UT incubator to meet 2040 zero waste goal, Austin Monitor