5 startup ideas to help save the planet

Looking for sustainable-startup ideas? Here are a couple we’ve had in our own studio. We’ve done our own research on each of them, but we would recommend before building anything to do your own research and adapt these to your market conditions. We can’t guarantee these will take off in the form presented here, but we’re sure that a competent founder will find some inspiration here for their next venture.

Out-of-Production marketplace

1. Out-of-Production marketplace πŸš—


Problem: Companies go bankrupt all the time, that’s nothing new. However, when they go bankrupt, their products still live on the market, like it’s the recent case for VanMoof e-bikes. With no support from the initial manufacturer, how is an individual supposed to maintain and repair their product? It becomes almost obsolete. Products shouldn’t die at the same time as the company.

Target: Manufacturing businesses: electronics, automotive, industrial equipment.

Proposed Solution: A marketplace (I’d suggest to make it niche-based) where customers can sell each other (verified) parts from discontinued products. This is already happening informally on second-hand sales platforms, but there are a lot of improvements that can be added: verification of both seller and what they’re selling, providers who can fill in the service for small parts by 3D printing them on-demand, tips and tricks on how to extend the product’s life from other users. The great thing about this is that the initial company that made the products is either non-existent or not interested in supporting the product, creating a wonderful gap for a platform like this to fill.

– Marketplace-style business, with fewer operations to handle compared to other alternatives.
– Freedom to provide additional support that would otherwise be stopped by IP laws and cease-and-desist from companies.
– A clear, already expressed need by users on other selling platforms + flexibility of creating this in multiple industries.

– Smaller market: There aren’t a lot of people willing to repair and support old products, enthusiasts are the usual “suspects”.
– Safety and reputation: The platform will be vulnerable to bad-faith seller unless it sets up a system against that.
– Pricing: the enthusiasts sure are willing to spend more to keep their old products, but normal people might see the price for new parts matches buying a new one out-right. Then what? To research…

Expired Milk factory

2. Expired Milk factory πŸ„


Problem: 65% of people are lactose-intolerant. Oat, soy, almond, pistachio, rice, coconut, hemp, cashew milk are slowly but surely growing in use, yet production of cow milk has not slowed down. That lead to a lot of waste from the producers, but the reality is that 90% of milk waste happens in households. That means we, the consumers, throw away milk that’s gone bad or that we don’t drink anymore on a massive scale.

Target: Milk-based product patent holders (read on to find out more)

Proposed Solution: There are actually tens and hundreds of patents registered for milk-based packaging (for single use), milk-based clothing and milk-based paint. These products can be made even with expired milk, it doesn’t really matter the stage of it. So, with a reverse-milkman service, where a startup would collect potentially wasted milk from stores and consumers, you’d have the raw resources and the partners to produce this sustainable milk-based products.

– Raw materials can be recovered for cheap/free, significantly driving down costs.
– Plenty of different uses offer a safer bet as a manufacturer since your whole revenue isn’t coming from just one product.
– The sustainability aspect opens the door to European Funding (if based in EU of course), which significantly helps in covering initial costs of deployment.

– Cost of final product: Unless it could be slightly over or even undercut regular products in the space, it will have a hard time to take off. Do a financial model to check before picking this up.
– At the mercy of the patent holders: If they suddenly decide to not let you produce their product anymore, you lose a line of revenue instantly.
– Production process: It’s not easy to turn milk into other products, there is a big investment to be made in manufacturing lines.

Reactive thread for clothes manufacturing

3. Reactive Thread for clothes manufacturing πŸ‘–


Problem: Wasted clothes are chocking the planet. The average US consumer throws away 36kg of clothes every year, with $500 billion is lost each year because of under-wearing and failure to recycle clothes. Just to put it into perspective, 87% of the materials and fibers used to make clothing will end up in either incinerators or landfills.

Target: Fast fashion producers, clothing manufacturers.

Proposed Solution: A thread that reacts with a specific substance (for example, alcohol, and dissolves, leaving the initial pieces of clothing with no stitching attached, ready to be recycled and built into new pieces. This solution will have to go hand-in-hand with specialized stores that dismantle your clothing and reassemble it into other pieces, as consumers will have a hard time doing that on their own at home.

– Lower need for new clothes, as demand goes down.
– Lower costs for consumers as they combine and reuse their clothes or even mix and match with other people’s clothes/materials.
– Alcohol also has a disinfectant property, so this would help clean the clothes in the process as well. Would recommend more research to chose a specific, industrial-grade alcohol.

– Specialized process: Since this wouldn’t pe something people can (and are willing to do) at home, a specialized process needs to be put in place. That comes with the high-cost of set-up of a location capable to process these, not just the creation of the thread.
– Range of materials: The sheer range of materials that manufacturers use will become a huge challenge to match, as some materials don’t work with each other and can’t be washed together.
– Convince to switch: Having these huge manufacturing plants switch to a more expensive thread when they are barely paying their workers a living wage, that will be a tough sell.

Circular Material Marketplace

4. Circular Material Marketplace πŸ”„


Problem: You’re a manufacturer who wants to go green, but you don’t even know what new materials you can use for packaging, production and in processes.

Target: Manufacturing plants, Product Designers.

Proposed Solution: A shopify platform where you can order only sustainable, made-for-circular use materials, like bioplastics, mycelium packaging and pineapple leather. 🍍

– “Dropshipping” useful, eco materials is easier to implement, as there are hundreds of tutorials on building a shopify store and selling through it.
– Demand of the market to meet ESG targets will only increase, and consumers are asking manufacturers to become more sustainable everyday.
– Distribution is not the strong suit of the developers of these new materials, you would be solving a huge problem for them.

– Margins: Sustainable materials are already expensive, adding your margin on top certainly wouldn’t help demand…
– Quality-Check: What stops a material provider to sell a fake-eco product through your platform? How do you check? To research this.
– Regulation/compliance (especially in Europe): The materials have to comply to the standards of each country, the platform has to be localized and account for that.

Furniture parts made of recycled plastic

5. Furniture parts made of recycled plastic. πŸ› πŸ›‹


Problem: We have a ton of plastic (still). 🀒 Most of it is made for one-time use: cups, bottles, cosmetics etc. Plastic is, however, a very durable material that should be used for durable products.

Target: Furniture manufacturers. πŸ”¨

Proposed Solution: A center that receives recycled plastic and turns it into furniture parts that integrate into already existing products. We’ve seen firsthand when we worked in this industry how much wood is used even for structural, unseen parts of the furniture. Parts that could easily be replaced by plastic.

– Stronger, more durable in the long-term than wood.
– Less use of natural, new resources and more recycling happening.
– Integrates directly in the already-existing production process.

– Public-perception (Who wants plastic furniture in their house? Unless it is clearly explained that is better, both structurally and for the environment).
– Regulations (There are some very specific rules when designing and manufacturing furniture, producers might be tempted to skirt around those and promote the product as wood when in fact has a plastic component).
– Pollution (Yes, producers might be incentivized to use the plastic in lower-quality products that end up in the dump in the first 3-4 years, thus negating the entire positive impact).

Sustainability is no easy task, there are still many ideas that lay undiscovered, these are just a couple of them. If you’re curios for more or even want to develop your own set of ideas, proposals and/or solutions reach out and learn more about organizing a hackathon with us.

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