“Towards a pollution-free planet with a pollution-free process” – Kristaps Cirius, CMO TerraWaste
Largely as a result of man’s entrepreneurial innovativeness, we produce 2.01 billion tonnes of waste a year, 86% of which is non-recyclable, and, as a result of burning just 30 percent of the waste we generate, 850 million metric tons of CO2 pollutes the atmosphere, creates respiratory problems and contributes to global warming. In recent years various efforts have been made to address this problem. These have ranged from reducing the volume of material going into landfill (Billi London) to finding an alternative to, for example, single-use plastic (Notpla and Marina Tex) and inventing new ways of disposing of waste (Gandaki Urja, Takachar) without damaging the planet or its people.
TerraWaste is one of the more promising. Founded in 2020 it is developing a unique solution to turn plastics into profitable carbon-negative material that will be of benefit to people and the planet.
As the venture’s CEO, Aija Pope says “It turns plastic waste into synthetic oil which has valuable chemicals, which in turn, are used as input feedstock for upcycling plastics. We will reduce the amount of virgin plastic being used”.
The venture was co-founded by Dr Payam Zargarzadeh, formerly from the oil and gas industry and a postdoc at Cranfield University in the UK, and Professor Shailendra Vyakarnam, formerly Director of the Bettany Centre for Entrepreneurship at the University. The idea was developed from research at Cranfield into hydrothermal liquefaction. This uses high temperatures and pressures to convert organic and inorganic waste into bio-liquid. The process is pollution free as it takes place in a sealed vessel, similar to a pressure cooker, that does not emit any gases and is energy efficient as the heat and water is reused. Following prototyping and testing in India in 2018, the founders presented their idea at an Ignition Event in Latvia, a unique matchmaking event intended to bring entrepreneurship and world-class science together to facilitate new venture creation. It is based on a commercialisation methodology developed by Commercialisation Reactor, an international platform for science commercialisation in partnership with the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology. Here they met Aija Pope, a communications graduate of the University of Latvia who, in 2020, became CEO of the new venture and Kristops Cirius, an Environmental Engineer and serial entrepreneur who took on the role of CMO with Payam as CTO and Shailendra as CBO.
Since then they have secured a place on the first Stockholm Techstars Accelerator, which invests in high-growth/early stage companies in the Nordic/Baltic start-up ecosystem. TerraWaste has conducted its first proof of concept experiments with a research institution in India and produced a very exciting synthetic oil that has got a multinational oil company interested to partner with TerraWaste. In addition, TerraWaste is now in serious conversation (under NDA) with early customers to work out how best to meet future regulations with waste plastics.
TerraWaste will continue to provide lab testing facilities to enable plastics manufacturers and companies that are running into the risk of fines to help identify if and how they can deal with the challenges of waste plastics. The company will also produce the oils and chemicals that can be used for advanced non-polluting materials and in due course license out the technologies because as Aija says: “…there is so much waste that one company simply cannot recycle and deal with it all”.
One of the engineering partners is also enthusiastic to become involved. According to the CEO of Axis Tech, Paulius Arštikys, “sustainability as a business approach is one of the main values of Axis Tech”.
After a successful start in Europe TerraWaste plans to enter the Middle East before going global.
Still very much an early-stage start-up, TerraWaste has the potential to develop into a successful Harmonious Enterprise. It has a strong leadership team, a committed like-minded, and experienced partner, and is concerned not just about “making as much money as possible” but about the planet and its people. While it addresses SDG 13 (Climate Action), it also embraces 9 (Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure), 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production), and 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities) as well as 17 (Partnerships to achieve the Goal).
Isere A (2021), TerraWaste gives plastic waste a second life. LabsofLatvia. 22nd December.
Axis Tech (2021). Collaboration for a Life-Changing Project with TerraWaste. Press Release 2nd August.
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