Tackling the task of integrating plastic waste as resources into the circular economy is not an easy one. It will require significant systemic change and oodles of innovation. This is precisely the reason Enviu teamed up with Impact Hub this spring on the Plastic Fantastic Challenge, calling for students and entrepreneurs to come forward with their ideas.


The winner, Marco Kortland, was one of 100 hopefuls who entered into the challenge. Marco has been fascinated by how we can use waste as a fuel and construction material for years, working in Latin America and The Netherlands on many different projects. Now his dream of setting up his own social enterprise, Urban Mining, is close to becoming a reality.


Brimming with originality, Urban Mining uses crowdfunding with a twist to encourage people in urban centres to come forward with their plastic waste – in return for shares in the company. This is the first time in Europe a resource has replaced money in a crowdfunding project. The project will be rolled out first in The Hague in The Netherlands.


One kilo of plastic waste (as well waste from electric and electronic equipment) will earn one share and the goal is to collect 6,000 tons of waste resources in return for 6 million shares. Using 3D printing, these resources will be transformed into products such as skateboards and street furniture such as streetlamps.  The profits from these will be circulated to the shareholders. Ultimately, Marco’s vision is for people to be able to order replacements for, e.g. broken household items, effectively swapping their plastic waste for useable products.


“By adding value to waste I want to make Dutch consumers aware of the actual value of resources in our household waste and that we’re actually throwing away money”, says Marco.


Since winning the challenge, Marco has been a man on a mission, in free flow and busy realising his ideas.  When he’s not busy developing the prototype of the mobile app that will provide the crucial link between users and the project, he might be seen running a workshop at StartUp Fest Europe, building partnerships with 3D printing companies and showing his ideas in other cities, like this week to Paris’ Mayor’s office.


The process of accumulating collection points is in full swing in The Hague and the app should be up and running within a couple of weeks. With the 3D printers secured through collaboration rather than purchase, the project looks set to go live sooner rather than later. You can follow the progress of on Urbanmining.net.


So what advice does Marco have to budding entrepreneurs, itching to make their ideas reality?


“Collaboration is very important. Make use of the ‘so-called’ golden triangle of government, education and business as much as you can. Open innovation is key to accelerate your business in the current transition to a Circular Economy!”


Acting on his own advice, Marco is part of a group of startups, all active in the Circular Economy, who keep in touch with monthly feedback and reflection and to stay sharp and up-to-date.


Urban Mining is poised to be working out of Impact Hub Rotterdam soon. So if you’re interested in plastic waste reuse and find yourself in that neck of the woods, check in with Marco to see how he’s getting on!


Find out more about the Plastic Fantastic Challenge here.