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Reusable Containers and Recycled Tires On Display at WasteExpo Pitch Slam

Article-Reusable Containers and Recycled Tires On Display at WasteExpo Pitch Slam

Paolo Galasso / Alamy Stock Photo tire plastic 1540.jpg
DeliverZero and Porous Pave & BSG Tire Recycling talk innovation and helping shape the waste industry ahead of WasteExpo Pitch Slam competition.

WasteExpo 2023 is right around the corner and for some attendees, it can mean a big step in the right direction for their ongoing efforts in sustainability and innovation.

Four different teams are competing for prizes and will attempt to win over potential investors at the WasteExpo Pitch Slam. These teams have been hard at work finding new and innovative ways to help communities with waste and promote sustainability. Each team will put on a presentation for an audience and take questions from those attending to see what each team is up to and how they’re impacting communities and achieving goals.

Recently, Waste360 spoke to Birch Biosciences and VMX International about the Pitch Slam event and issues that the industry is facing. Now, we’ll hear from the Porous Pave & BSG Tire Recycling and DeliverZero teams ahead of the big event.

Porous Pave & BSG Tire Recycling are teaming up to help transform scrap tires into ADA compliant permeable paving solutions. The Michigan based innovators want to turn used tires into new materials such as bunker lines for golf courses and tree surrounds.

Porous Pave Inc. was founded in 2006 and since has eliminated more than 10 million lbs. of scrap tires from landfills and transformed them into more than 5 million square feet of paving solutions. BSG Tire Recycling was founded in 2021 and have committed to achieving 100% diversion of scrap tires away from landfills.

Waste360: How is innovation shaping the waste industry?

Porous Pave & BSG Tire Recycling: Innovation is the precursor to adoption. Let’s take the problem we are solving - eliminating scrap tires from landfills and waterways throughout the globe. Historically, a scrap tire was a liability destined for a landfill where it became a risk factor in mosquito breeding and accounting for up to a third of the mosquitos in a given area. Innovation is changing a scrap tire from a liability to a valuable asset. Now, the metal and fiber can be removed, and the tire can evolve into valuable crumb rubber and other recycled materials that form the building blocks for a host of solutions.

Waste360: How is your project serving the waste industry and sustainability immediately and long term?

Porous Pave & BSG Tire Recycling: As adoption grows, our project is transforming thousands of scrap tires into viable solutions such as walking trails, tree surrounds, rubber mulch and several other products currently in development. One of the exciting prospective solutions gives us the ability to use scrap tire aggregate for green stormwater management issues, water filtration (using crumb rubber) and reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.  

Waste360: What challenges do teams face in the waste industry when trying to innovate?

Porous Pave & BSG Tire Recycling: The greatest challenge is that the waste industry locally seems to be resistant to adopting changes that are different from what’s been done for the last 40-50 years. We have found that the focus is still on maximizing the economics instead of balancing profit and environmental impact. The innovators in our industry are people, like us, who come from different backgrounds and are using those experiences to add value to the waste industry.  It often looks and feels different from what’s typical and convincing a successful waste industry veteran can sometimes be challenging.

Waste360: Which of those challenges are specific to your innovation/project? 

Porous Pave & BSG Tire Recycling: The biggest challenge we face is a lack of awareness followed by a hesitance to accept the proposed solution as something that can be adopted. The innovations we are proposing cost more on the front end, but the durability and longevity provide balance from a pricing perspective over time. This is a challenge when the typical mentality is that resources are scarce. Instead, a less costly solution is often chosen. The small decisions to save 10% now are often contributing to creating chronic issues that cost dramatically more in the long term

For DeliverZero, its mission is to make it easy for restaurants, delivery apps, and POS systems to offer customers the option to receive takeout and delivery in reusable containers. Those containers can be returned to any participating location on the DeliverZero network, thus saving on plastics and other waste from single use containers. Since it launched in 2019, DeliverZero has driven over $1 million in gross food sales through its marketplace and partnered with DoorDash in 2021.

DeliverZero notes that packaging makes up almost 30% of municipal waste which is 82.2 million tons worth with less than 10% of being recycled. Single-use packages also take a huge toll on the climate by contributing to global emissions during all phase of life.

Waste360: How is innovation shaping the waste industry?

DeliverZero: Much of the innovation right now is coming from underfunded startups and NGOs. I am close with many of the people doing this work, and I believe we have the willpower to get things done. We can punch above our weight. There are some legacied organizations that are starting to take notice, and they are beginning to participate in solutions that have been proven out by innovators. I think we'll begin to see more of that. That's how real change will happen, so I hope that it happens rapidly. 

Waste360: How is your project serving the waste industry and sustainability immediately and long term?

DelieverZero: In the immediate term, we're making reuse more accessible than ever before. For customers, ordering in reusable containers is as simple as adding a menu item to their cart--they don't need to sign up through our app ahead of time or scan QR codes. After they opt-in (either at the counter or when ordering through delivery apps we integrate with), customers get text and email updates letting them know how many containers were attributed to their account and how long they have to return them. We also clearly communicate return options, which include handing the containers back to a courier delivering a future grocery or restaurant delivery order. 

While I'm proud of the experience we've already created, we just finished building the tech to go even further. Through our new software product, businesses can track their own reusable packaging and use the same return levers we've used to drive a 98% return rate in our own system, plus some new return levers like reward incentives. Currently, a few meal kit delivery services are using this software to track their own packaging. It's been suggested that this software could be used to track and communicate returns processes for other materials that need to be recovered. We're very eager to see our software used to build more efficient circular systems.

Waste360: What challenges do teams face in the waste industry when trying to innovate?

DeliverZero: There are a lot of people out there who think that just because something hasn't been done before, it can't be done. Technology is developing at such a rapid pace--especially the machine learning technology we use in our system--that that's simply not true.

Waste360: Which of those challenges are specific to your innovation/project?

DeliverZero: There are some who are afraid that disruptive new tech and financial models like ours will cut into their business. Just in the last year, I've begun to sense that fear coming from more people at packaging conferences who previously didn't take reuse seriously enough to care. They might be right--if they are stuck in the mud and refuse to innovate, they are going to get left behind. But there is plenty of room for collaboration in this space, so organizations that embrace new ways of doing things sooner will benefit financially. 

Editor's Note: The WasteExpo 2023 Pitch Slam will take place in New Orleans on Tuesday, May 2.

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