Four Innovative Areas Circular Economy Is Advancing Sustainability, Nature And Climate

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Four Innovative Areas Circular Economy Is Advancing Sustainability, Nature And Climate

A recent study from BDO highlighted that in the UK in 2022, £879 million of disclosed capital was invested into circular economy innovation through venture, seed and private equity funding. Considering that the EU Taxonomy has outlined the “transition to a circular economy” as one of its four environmental objectives, rendering circular investments as opportunities for investors to align with sustainability, this funding will only increase.

Globally, start-ups are already devising new solutions to tackle circular economy challenges – eliminating waste and pollution, circulating products and materials, and regenerating nature. Verdantix has identified four developing areas directly relevant to the circular economy: decarbonizing concrete, chemical recycling, synthetic material development and water upcycling.

Decarbonizing concrete
The concrete industry is responsible for 8% of all global carbon emissions – and 30-40% of global solid waste. In an attempt to reduce construction’s impact on global emissions, novel techniques have been developed to lower concrete’s overall carbon footprint:

  • Carbon8 captures CO2 to treat industrial residue and build lightweight aggregates for construction.
  • CarbonCure injects concrete with captured CO2, effectively embedding the emissions produced in its production.
  • Carbon Upcycling uses CO2 to reinforce cement and other materials.
  • CO2ncrEAT comprises four Belgian firms operating in a closed loop to capture, transport and reuse CO2 in the production of concrete.
  • Sublime Systems applies electrification, removing the need for a kiln in the heating process of cement production.


Chemical recycling
Chemical production can minimize environmental impacts through changes in feedstocks. By inputting waste products instead of virgin materials, firms can make operations more resource-efficient, reduce carbon emissions and create closed-loop plastic ecosystems:

  • Dioxycle converts CO2 into ethylene via electrolysis, circulating carbon and producing a chemical input in return.
  • Encina converts waste plastic into constituent BTX/P molecules, forming the building blocks for myriad products.
  • Recycling Technologies has projects to support feedstock and monomer recycling.


Synthetic material development
Globally, only 7.2% of the virgin materials extracted from the Earth per year are cycled back into the economy. Meanwhile, extractive activities contribute to half of global CO2 emissions and 80% of biodiversity loss, according to the UN. Solutions being developed in materials science and bio-engineering are reducing resource extraction and developing ways to cycle materials through multiple life cycles:

  • Avantium and DePoly focus on circularity in plastic production aimed at PET, the former with plant-based inputs to form a polymer and the latter through advanced recycling to breakdown PET into its constituent chemicals.
  • Greenful produces boarding and panelling made from textile waste.
  • Twelve produces chemicals, materials and fuels from carbon transformation processes that mimic photosynthesis.


Water upcycling
Globally, water stress is a growing problem for nature, agriculture, industry and consumption, and climate-related events are set to exacerbate existing strains. The UN predicts a global shortfall in water supply by 2030 of 40%. Water-related solutions have proliferated to meet increasing supply insecurity:

  • Allonnia and EPOC ENVIRO remove harmful PFAS contaminants from water.
  • DyeCoo, a textile processing solution, has evolved to provide chemical-free, water-free dying solutions that can prevent harmful leaching and water pollution.
  • SOURCE produces solar powered hydro panels to power fans that condense water vapor in the air into water for purification and drinking.
  • Wint uses AI to detect leaks in pipes to reduce waste, cost and downtime for operational equipment.


Over the coming years, investments into these technologies will ramp up in order to bolster sustainability aligned investment strategies and successfully support transitioning to a greener economy. Alongside this activity, Verdantix anticipates considerable growth in digital solutions to support transitioning to more circular operations – research on a range of market participants is available here, alongside a deeper dive on the technologies in this blog. 

Guy Lewis

Industry Analyst

Guy is an Industry Analyst in the Verdantix ESG & Sustainability practice. He currently leads research on circular economy software and services and supports research across several other ESG and sustainability themes. Prior to joining Verdantix, Guy was an energy specialist helping to optimize member experience, through which he gained knowledge of both operations and smart technologies. Guy holds a BA in Geography from the University of Manchester, with a placement year at the University of Queensland.