New business competition puts environmentally focused entrepreneurs ahead of like-minded investors

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BELLINGHAM, WA. – Sixteen Washington-based companies will receive business planning, networking and pitch development support, as well as technical training over the coming months as they prepare for the inaugural Cohort Pitch Competition from NextCycle Washington in February 2023. Organized by the King County Solid Waste Division and the Washington Departments of Commerce and Ecology, the competition will highlight environmental businesses that are primarily women and minority-owned, and whose projects would expand the state’s circular economy.

The statewide cohort competition will put sustainability-focused entrepreneurs in front of potential investors interested in funding established business ideas through NextCycle Washington’s circular acceleration tracks.

The two components of the 2022 program are “Upstream”, focused on preventing waste or improving the reuse and repair of materials; and “Downstream,” which focuses on improving, innovating, or expanding recycling, organics recovery, and material end uses.

“We are excited about the first cohort of NextCycle Washington, representing women-led and minority-led organizations,” said Pat McLaughlin, director of King Could’s solid waste division. “It is the intent of this statewide initiative, to create a more equitable investment landscape for all Washingtonians.”

The NextCycle Washington teams that have been selected for the 2022-2023 cohort are:

Upstream

  • Community Gearbox, an app that facilitates the sharing, co-ownership and mobilization of products that would otherwise be discarded or left unused and prevents the purchase of redundant new items for the community
  • DeliverZero, a service that allows customers to use reusable containers when ordering through delivery platforms
  • GeerGarage, an online business that facilitates peer-to-peer outdoor equipment rentals by connecting renters with available products
  • Just Right Bite, creating insect-based pet food with a circular nature
  • Okapi Reusables, operating a network of reusable cups in cafes and coffee shops
  • Plover, which helps companies create a range of recycled products within their brand using their unsaleable inventory and pre-consumer materials
  • Refugee Artisan Initiative (RAI), expand recycling of materials, such as fire hoses, by refugee and immigrant women
  • South King Tool Library, expanding the “Tool Library in a Box” model in South King County.

Downstream

  • Birch Biosciences, Inc, has developed a plastic recycling approach using enzymes to depolymerize plastic, starting with non-bottle PET
  • Book Hill Group, Inc., designing products, such as garment bags and household accessories, for laundry, textiles and cabinetry that will use recycled content
  • Duwamish Valley Sustainability Association, a youth-led team in South Park developing a technical solution using anaerobic digestion to generate sustainable low-carbon fuel while building community capacity
  • Glacier, building AI-enabled robots that automate sorting, making recycling cheaper and more efficient for recycling facilities of all sizes and budgets
  • Glass Packaging Institute, works to improve the feasibility and economics of glass recycling in underserved and more rural areas of Washington and offers a glass aggregation plant in Walla Walla
  • Ground2ground Glass, Expands Efforts to Turn Glass into a Natural Sand Substitute in the Walla Valley
  • Reclaimed textiles, local circular economy for textile waste – transforming clothes destined for landfill into new materials, taking into account global social and environmental impacts via shipping container-sized recycling modules
  • Restaurant to Garden, a decentralized and hyperlocal system that composts food waste from local restaurants into fertilizer and redistributes it to community gardens

The teams were chosen from a pool of 26 nominations by the Track Governance Circle, a diverse group of external subject matter experts and individuals with lived experience from industry, local government and communities to provide oversight and program direction. They were selected based on concept feasibility, value to Washington’s circular economy, project team qualifications, and environmental, social, and economic impacts.

Over the next six months, NextCycle Washington teams will work closely with experienced mentors, consultants, and subject matter experts to improve and refine business models and project plans. The lineup will conclude with a pitch competition where teams will pitch their ready-made projects in front of a live audience.

NextCycle Washington is currently accepting applications through November 16, 2022 for Renew Seed grants. Selected projects will receive up to $10,000 to develop early-stage projects focused on reducing waste or reusing, repairing or recycling materials in Washington. The program plans to have a 2nd cohort of accelerators in 2023.

NextCycle Washington is a statewide initiative of the King County Division of Solid Waste, the Washington Departments of Commerce and Ecology, Seattle Utilities, and the Washington Recycling Development Center.

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