This week we heard from new innovators at the local Circular Economy Pitch Competition.  Western Placer Waste Management Authority (WPWMA) is spending $120 million to upgrade their Placer County facility and they want it to spur innovation in the region. So, WPWMA collaborated with the Carlsen Center at Sac State to hold the Circular Economy Innovation competition. In its second year, the competition is an opportunity for regional innovators to pitch their ideas to WPWMA and win $20,000, a pretty serious prize.  

It is a tough competition because WPWMA is looking for innovations that could be tested and improve their new facility. Most companies are used to pitching for financing to investors, who most likely are not potential customers. WPWMA could be both, financiers and customers. So the pitch is two-fold. Show you have a genuine business opportunity that is also a fit for them as a potential customer.  The evaluation criteria are closely reflected in innovations WPWMA sees as important to their waste recovery efforts.

Companies’ innovations were evaluated on their ability to allow WPWMA to:

  • Maximize recovery of materials, avoiding increases in landfill disposals
  • Reducing costs (transportation, energy usage, etc.)
  • Enhancing revenues
  • Creating consistency (decreasing volatility of international markets)1

Eight Companies pitched Wednesday, and some addressed global issues, like FabricFeed’s ERP and platform for managing textile waste. Others focused on issues close to home, like PalmBin’s composting (currently running a Kickstarter campaign) and Clean & Go’s waste removal for the unhoused. There were even some pitches close to clean tech from Sustainable Energy Inc. (who was part of the second cohort of the CEO Crash Course) and GreenGo, a recent Sacramento State graduate who has designed a carbon capture add-on for exhaust.

The $20,000 was won by Fiber Global, which has a solution that closely fits the criteria. It is a funded company that has demonstrated traction by having a production facility in Indiana taking cardboard and creating fiber boards. But it was close. WPWMA also announced a surprise award of $5,000 for a similar but earlier-stage company Eco Builder, which are looking to convert plastic waste into building materials. Both innovations focused on recovering materials and enhancing revenues, two important parts of WPWMA’s metrics.

The Circular Economy Innovation Competition is likely to return in 2025. It is a great experience for companies looking to get their solution in front of WPWMA and learn what a potential future customer and stakeholder views as important. If you have an idea, follow the Carlsen Center and WPWMA for future opportunities.

1 https://www.csus.edu/center/carlsen/build-with-carlsen-center/circular-economy.html#:~:text=Maximize%20recovery%20of,of%20international%20markets)

Thomas Hall

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Thomas is the Executive Director of CleanStart. Thomas has a strong background in supporting small businesses, leadership, financial management and is proficient in working with nonprofits. He has a BS in Finance and a BA in Economics from California State University, Chico. Thomas has a passion for sustainability and a commitment to supporting non-profits in the region.

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