Impact Shakers City Guide: Rotterdam with Lori Goff
Since travel isn’t what it used to be, we decided to travel the world through our Impact Shakers City Guides, in which a member of our community shares some of the highlights of their city’s impact ecosystem.
Rotterdam is noted as the second largest city in the Netherlands and its maritime character has earned it the nickname ‘Gateway to Europe. In this City Guide edition, Lori Goff from Outlander Materials will guide us through her view of Rotterdam as an impact entrepreneur’s city at the forefront of working with bio-materials.
Tell us something about you and how your company got started?
When I moved to the Netherlands a few years ago, by chance I was given a beer brewing kit for my birthday and started to teach myself to brew beer in my kitchen. It was then I became aware of the volume of wastewater beer brewing produces and started to consider routes to use that “waste” as a resource. Having the idea that we can essentially use biotechnology to convert beer brewing waste into UnPlastic, a non-plastic material that could be suitable as an alternative to single use plastic foils.
I got connected to Blue City Lab in Blue City, Rotterdam (the old Tropicana swimming park- turned circular economy business hub) which also happened to have an inhouse brewery called Vet&Lazy. By working together with the brewery to learn more about their process and taking their waste to the lab space next door for our experiments, we were able to prove the principle: we can turn beer waste into UnPlastic!
We feel that waste is a choice. We can choose to develop systems, methods, materials, and values that reconsider the term “waste”
We are working to develop both a conversion system that can turn food production industry streams, by-products, and waste effluents into higher value compounds (rather than being dumped down the drain where they can at best be used for incineration or biogas) and to develop non-plastic future proof materials like UnPlastic, a functional, compostable, and non-plastic alternative to single use plastic packaging. To help reduce waste from beginning to end.
Our mission is:
- To develop non-plastic materials that can help reduce our dependence on single use plastic packaging. Which can help reduce rubish and microplastics from entering the environment.
- To develop conversion systems that can effectively convert food industry streams, by-products, and waste effluents [( not sewage!!) but food production grade] This as a means to help reduce the need for virgin resource production and to increase the value and use of nutrients being wasted in current systems. Ideally this will help reduce global transportation for resources and reduce emissions.
- Tto create a company and company culture that we would ourselves dream to work for and with. We want our people to not just help bring our vision forward, but to realise their own personal visions and help make sure that their personal visions are pursued through their work with us. We aim to lead with kindness, compassion, transparency. It’s important to us that our people, our partners, and anyone that can be affected by our products can trust and rely on us. Very much a people, planet, profit ideal.
Your city and ecosystem: Van zooi naar mooi. | From shit to hit.
This is actually a slogan of our city. Rotterdam has made some serious efforts to transform the city in so many aspects. They put significant energy into their waste transformations and to the entrepreneurial environment to really make Rotterdam the best place for startups and innovation.
Overview of the impact ecosystem
Citylab010 is #1.
They have a vast network with company, governmental, funding, and startup supporting bodies to foster innovation and development. Citylab010 also has their own fund that offers a phenomenal grant each year to support the most difficult and crucial phase in innovation- from ideation to proof of concept. Often starters need funding to bring an idea from zero to 1, but this is often the hardest to get funding for. If you have an idea to make Rotterdam more awesome, this is absolutely the best place to start.
This a funding body supported by both regional government and independent finance to help bridge the funding gap for innovation. An innovation fueled approach helps them guide solution-oriented start-ups in a very urbanized and competitive setting, by giving the projects they fund that much needed bit of support.
Startup validation and acceleration programs. At YesDelft they believe tech companies can have a positive impact and therefore they strive to bridge the gap between corporates and startups. They connect mentors, experts, corporate partners and investors with starting entrepreneurs. In this manner the entrepreneurs build a solid startup in an equally solid network.
A place for circular innovation. Many startups, small companies, events, and programs are supported in connection with Blue City and our network. Their own website says it best, they’re an impact accelerator where ‘start-ups can create waves and corporates can catch the tide’. They see their accelerator as a model city coming up with zero waste solutions and futureproof material that make sense for their environment. Definitely one to watch in the Rotterdam business-ecosystem.
Impact Express mobilises through communication. They help new ventures find their footing in an impactful way. They also focus on improving the sustainability outlook of existing companies. On top of this they build bridges between researchers and entrepreneurs, making sure good data is used.
An offshoot of the Horizon2020 project of the European Committee. In total 1 million euros went to entrepreneurs in Rotterdam. As both social and ecologically impactful entrepreneurs are in the sights of European policies it might be a good idea to watch out for calls like these when they next arise.
Other cool impact businesses to keep an eye on
An award winning company that promotes the circular economy by growing oyster mushrooms on coffee grounds. Their sustainable webshop features a host of eco-friendly products, and they educate circular economy principles and oyster mushroom growing.
This product studio specialises in sustainable plastic products. They redesign the packaging of existing products and use recycled materials in the process. By using a strategic approach to a business’ use of plastics they help them transition to a futureproof way of dealing with their packaging.
They convert normal tents into solar-powered ones. This increases the use of renewable energy systems by making a portable unit that is upgradable, repairable and recyclable. In brief, a perfect example of a product that is designed for the circular economy.
Pine trees, a main component of the European timber industry, have needles as a by-product. It accounts for a large part of the mass of a cut down tree. These needles are turned into fibers, again producing a usable by-product in the form of essential oils and natural dyes. This fiber as a bio-composite has many applications from textile to the automotive industry.
Addoptics manufacture optical prototypes using industry materials, within a very short lead-time. Through 3D-printing and casting they provide their clients with an efficient prototype of the proposed product.
The Krekerij and Burgs Foods are working on bringing the proteïn source of the future to our plates in the form of cricket and grasshopper burgers and snacks. They strive to develop sustainable products that fit within the existing food culture of the Netherlands.
Shared Packaging have made it their goal to replace single-use plastics in home deliveries in accordance with the 2021 ban.
Parx Materials produce sustainable, biocompatible and recyclable antimicrobial plastics.
They produce award winning and patented materials that can be used in medical implants, in covid-masks and even in food packaging.
They work on circular economy through designing with biomaterials. Their former projects have included working with seaweed, microbial cellulose and biodyes. The emphasis is on the role that design can play in zero waste networks when by-products and waste streams are re-assessed for the potential of the biomaterials they contain.
An urban brewery housed in BlueCity Rotterdam with colourful and characterful beers.
At Spireaux they produce spirulina in urban settings while limiting the ecological cost of the process by using led-based photoreactors and growing it locally. The fresh spirulina is thought to be an excellent addition to a healthy diet and a great source of protein and essential amino acids.
Mojawear is an ethical and sustainable underwear brand. For every pair of underwear bought a pair of underwear or a reusable sanitary pad goes to Tanzania. It supports local entrepreneurship and plays an educational role in women’s health and hygiene.
A creative startup that combines nature, science and design to generate crucial, sustainable breakthroughs. They’re working on tone-setting projects like ‘Living Lights’. They developed a lamp powered by a plant’s own photosynthesis. A true combination of craftsmanship design and science. But there’s more; they also have projects ongoing concerning water quality and are using nanotechnology to measure air quality in an interactive wall.
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