Love your waste!

Last week, I had the pleasure of participating in the Dutch Design Week ’18 in Eindhoven. The main sponsor, ABN AMRO invited us to join in a panel discussion hosted bij Meike Veenhoven, together with 3 other highly inspiring entrepreneurs on the theme: “Van Waste Naar Winst”.

Foto: Hannie Verhoeven

I will share with you some of the highlights and of course, some new insights.

Tulip heads

The first panel member Christian is the owner of the Excess Materials Exchange, a digital facilitated marketplace where companies can exchange any excess materials and products. A good example: tulip flower heads: The Netherlands is famous for its tulips. After flowering the tulip, heads are cut off and wasted. Growers sometimes Even pay to get rid of them. Yet, they are a valuable resource in other sectors. For example, they could be converted into pigments for paint. 800kg of pigment can be retrieved from one hectare of land. This leads to a total market in the Netherlands of all tulip fields of €1.5 trillion in pigments. Herewith, Excess Materials Exchange speeds up transition to a circular economy and turn waste into wealth!

Coffee Soap

Christian was followed by Robert-Willem, founder of SOOP. In the Netherlands, we produce 120 million kilos of coffee grounds and millions of kilos of orange peel annually as a by-product of our consumption of coffee and fresh gravy. Most of the coffee grounds and peelings go with the residual waste. It's a great shame, because coffee grounds and orange peel are very valuable raw materials for soap. SOOP was founded with the ambition to use residual flows as a fully-fledged raw material for soap. Why is it necessary to use scent, natural exfoliation? To make optimal use of the scent, natural scrub, cleansing effect and colour of both coffee grounds and citrus for your skin. To give residual flows value. And to offer a commercial alternative to non-natural ingredients in the vast majority of existing soap products that often contain microbeads (plastic). SOOP is currently developing solid hand soap, liquid hand soap and cleaning products.

Sand Disk Clocks

After this inspiring story, designer Wisse entered the stage, owner and founder of qoowl. Qoowl is all about product design with an industrial touch. Ranging from interior design to fashion accessories; at qoowl they choose for the unexpected. They do so through our choice of (recycled/waste) materials, or the shape of their products. A great example is the Hands of Time clock, where each clock has a unique clockface, made from a sanding disc that was used by designers from the Design Academy Eindhoven. The discs are worn through use, and over time and have become a fingerprint of each designers work.

In my Q&A with Meike, I stressed that although sustainable thinking is a second nature to us, we were merely in the business of recycling classic design, and perfecting it for daily use with the technology of our future.

Love your waste!

As the discussion continued around the main topic of turning waste into profit, it struck me that on a more abstract level, we have been doing the same all along. By constantly rethinking what and why we are doing what we do, we often challenge our own assumptions and perspectives. One of the examples I gave was that of finding the necessary funding for Voitures extravert. We talked to so many people that were interested in our story. And they often loved what we were doing or how we were doing it, they loved classics or even a classic future, or they simply loved our business approach or the guys that were working around the clock to make their dreams come true. And having lots of fun in the process.

But regardless of their enthusiasm, many couldn’t be seduced into seriously investing in Voitures extravert as mostly our business size did not match their investment profiles. However, they insisted to remain involved with us and asked us how they could help us otherwise.

From our original perspective of looking for a large investor, we could have considered them as ‘waste’, as they didn’t address our need for large scale funding. However, we quickly realized that many of them were already true ambassadors of our vision and of our way of working. So we decided to address that insight by establishing the Classic Future Society, a group of 100 ambassadors who are part of our adventure to color the streets with iconic classics. With a personal membership in the form of a 5-year bond of €5K, they provide critical support to the development of existing and new classic icons. In return for their support, they receive a yearly DailyDrive: a full day unlimited use of the quintessenza and other benefits, such as test driving, design clinics and early access to news and (partner) events.

The full amount will be repaid after 5 years and as a return, they can experience the classic future theirselves!

The succes of our rethinking of ‘waste’ currently materializes into a great and growing network of already 26 enthousiast and involved ambassadors, and in the process providing the required funding for finalizing our quintessenza. We couldn’t be more satisfied!

But the main benefit is our realization that you’ve got to love your waste, as it may very well offer you unexpected success!

Inspiring panel participants

Christian van Maaren,

co-founder of Excess Materials Exchange, a chronic optimist, always finds possibilities to achieve the seemingly unattainable. With his sense of humor and ability to see the bigger picture he is able to successfully align unconventional stakeholders over complex challenges, as he did many years for Shell. His vision, curiosity and wit make him a skillful entrepreneur. Driven by making the world inclusive and circular he brought light in remote places with Global Himalayan Expedition and now the Excess Materials Exchange is his new venture. He is convinced that the Circular Economy plays a paramount role in the energy-climate challenge whilst delivering sound business results.

Robert-Willem Dol,

founder of SOOP, entrepreneur, designer and true pioneer. Every day, he asks himself the question how to create a circular business case. He’s the founder of SOOP and co-founder of the entrepreneur platform BeeBlue, a collective that develops products and services with a positive impact on society, environment and economy.

Wisse Trooster,

Industrial Designer and owner of qoowl. Wisse

already made furniture from the byproducts— the recovery - of a local doorpanel producer. In this way he gets locally his sustainable raw materials.

During Dutch Design Week 2018 he presented new work in collaboration with the young design label Cartoni Design. Among them a cushion filled with down from the Schiphol goose, the wild geese that are shot for safety at Schiphol. How do you make beautiful products that have little impact on the environment? When is a design sustainable? These are issues that often recur in the work of designer Wisse Trooster.

Meike de Jong,

chairman of the day, has been chairing meetings at home and abroad since 2006. Themes she becomes enthusiastic about include: economic developments & the labour market, agrifood, technology & healthcare, transitions in healthcare, citizen participation, demographic decline, innovation & design and nature & environment.

For international conferences she travelled to Bucharest, Istanbul, Limoges and Brussels. But she also presented the national start of Liberation Day 2012 in the presence of, among others, Prince Willem-Alexander, Prime Minister Mark Rutte and the German Federal President Joachim Gauck.

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