Incubating Resource Innovation and Solutions

by Beth Cochran

Approximately 8 million metric tons of plastic waste leaks into the ocean every year. Less than half of the U.S. population has access to automatic curbside recycling, and billions of pounds of grease trap waste is ending up in our nation’s sewers every year, causing severe overflows. Luckily, there are several innovative startup ventures working to solve these very problems, and they’re receiving support from the Resource Innovation and Solutions Network (RISN) Incubator.

The RISN Incubator, which launched in 2016, was the first program of its kind. Created through a partnership between Arizona State University and the City of Phoenix, the business accelerator is designed to support early-stage startup companies that are taking direct aim at some of the biggest sustainability challenges across the globe.

“The ventures that have come through the RISN Incubator are making big waves in the regenerative economy, bringing recycling to rural areas, creating cooperatives to drive more waste products from restaurants into creating renewable energy, and developing new partnerships to reduce the plastic waste,” says Alicia Marseille, director of the RISN Incubator. “These companies are not only profoundly disrupting the traditional linear economy, they’re also creating jobs and driving innovation.”

To date, RISN has worked with 13 companies that have created more than 80 jobs and internships, generated more than $4.1 million in revenues, and raised $2.95 million in venture capital. The ventures are completely rethinking the way resource streams are used and reused to drive economic development and protect natural resources, going far beyond traditional methods.

Observing that every startup venture has its own challenges, Marseille notes that circular economy-based startups have obstacles of their own. “The RISN Incubator works to assist early-stage ventures in working through these. It starts with a deep dive and understanding of circular economy, framing the obstacles that exist around current integrated solid waste management systems, the implications from the China ban, understanding supply chains, value chains, and then identifying opportunities to solve these problems. From this, they work to further develop their ventures, and navigate through key areas such as understanding where they are in the supply chains, identifying strategic partners, product/market fit, opportunities to develop pilots, sources for capital, and more. Through RISN, we work with ventures to navigate these areas to accelerate their development and opportunities for growth.”

BlueBridge, Renewlogy and Recyclops are among some of the most recent companies to emerge from the RISN Incubator, and they’re working to divert waste at the national and global level.

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