Written by: Ban Siang (AY 21/22 Sem 2 Resident and Marcomms Writer)
Reviewed by: Michelle (AY 21/22 Sem 2 Resident Assistant)

ffectionately termed Wicked Wednesdays, N-House’s hallmark event takes place every midweek evening. Every session, participants explore a new topic relevant to today’s startup world. Last week, we kickstarted the month-long Circular Economy N-Novate Challenge. To kick off the challenge, the N-House team organised a workshop to educate our students and alumni about sustainability and green concepts.

Publicity Poster for the Circular Economy N-Novate Challenge

We had the good fortune to welcome four esteemed guest speakers — Ee Liang Ying, co-founder of KleenSoil; Amanda Lim, founder of Alt.Native; Bryan Oh, CEO of NEU; and Woo Qiyun, environmental communicator and risk advisory consultant at Deloitte. Thank you for gracing our event!

Publicity Poster for the Circular Economy Workshop
Publicity Poster for the Circular Economy Workshop

What is a Circular Economy?

Traditionally, linear economies generate high levels of waste. Goods and products are discarded single-use. On the other hand, recycling economies advocate for used products to create a loop between ‘use’ and ‘make’, such that products can be reimagined and recreated. However, recycling economies remain imperfect; many items are unsuitable for recycling and still head for the landfill.

More recently, the concept of the circular economy has come to the fore. The circular economy aims to promote a form of development that decouples economic growth from the consumption of finite resources and the reduction of waste production.

A circular economy removes waste from the equation, yet allows for continued growth and creation.

Around the world, in the spirit of environmental sustainability, businesses are gradually incorporating elements of the circular economy into their product lifecycles. However, there remain key obstacles and bottlenecks despite the clear benefits that industries stand to gain. These obstacles range from a lack of government support, an absence of regulatory and financial incentives to spur companies to action, or simply regulatory hurdles where policies have not yet adapted to new green technology.

Three Businesses contributing to a Circular Economy

The three businesses our speakers represented are frontrunners in the race to institute a circular economy in the Singapore ecosystem.

After joining the NUS GRIP programme and with help from venture firms, KleenSoil found its focus in repurposing waste to be used for agricultural and horticultural industries. This reuse is made possible with their proprietary KleenSoil Remedy 2100, created to remove heavy metals from solid waste.

KleenSoil Business Model

Alt.Native pursued the environmental agenda in a very different direction. Amanda and her team pinpointed the fashion industry, and aims to upcycle deadstock and scrap fabric from fashion retailers to create a marketplace for new refashioned apparel.

Alt.Native Business Model

Finally, NEU crafted their value proposition in the recycling of crushed spent batteries to derive sustainable lithium, for use in new batteries. To achieve product-market fit and unique selling point, NEU worked with potential customers for months to find a product gap in the market.

NEU Battery Materials Business Model

How can businesses join the Circular Economy?

A true zero-waste-to-landfill goal can only be achieved in the long run after a cumulation of multiple small steps. For instance, our speakers suggest that businesses can start with issuing each new employee a Tupperware or using secondhand packaging to reduce waste creation.

In addition, it is also important for businesses to complement their aspiration of sustainability with a viable value proposition and unit economics. This is necessary because businesses are still fundamentally profit-driven, and will not survive without a sound model and a watertight marketing plan.

Join the Circular Economy N-Novate Challenge! 🌿

Now that you know about the circular economy, it’s time to contribute your ideas to the movement 💪🏻 Get together in groups of 3–5, and solve key societal and environmental challenges of your choice. Over the coming month, the N-House team will bring you a plethora of guides and workshops to satiate your curiosity too 😊

We have a lineup of exciting prizes for you too, comprising incubation support, mentorship guidance and opportunities for seed funding, among others! 🌷

Let’s go N-House!

Stay tuned for our upcoming events!

Week 7 (2 March): Digital Marketing Workshop

Week 8 (9 March): Pitch Masterclass

Week 9 (16 March): N-novate Challenge - Demo Day

Want to get more updates about N-House? Do follow or subscribe to the following channels or platforms for more updates!

Instagram: @nus.nhouse (https://www.instagram.com/nus.nhouse/)
Facebook: NHouse.sg (https://www.facebook.com/NHouse.sg)
About: Website (https://enterprise.nus.edu.sg/education-programmes/nus-overseas-colleges/nhouse/)

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