Upcycling or How to Find ‘Fresh’ Business Ideas out of Waste?

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Upcycling or How to Find ‘Fresh’ Business Ideas out of Waste?

It is now common knowledge that to find great business ideas, one has to search for problems. You take a look around the house, the neighborhood, community, or city and you notice several issues that bother you and other people. The city could be cleaner, the education and healthcare system can be improved, food could taste better, people could be happier, etc.
Despite the abundance of problems and their solutions, not each of them is achievable. Some require very specific skill sets, others huge capital, while others will simply not work out due to contextual factors.

Finding business ideas in your trash

So you get back to your research. You found the problems, now you need to find out if your solution can be profitable. As a potential one-person company, you explore the recent trends in small businesses. You start noticing that many profitable business ideas come out of waste.

Upcycling is the term used for recycling or repurposing items that can no longer be used in their current state. Interesting… You think about the leftover cooking oil you have been collecting over the last couple of years because you don’t know what to do with it. It is not healthier for you to use it, you cannot throw it in the garbage because somehow it would pollute the environment due to the poor waste management in your city. (Never pour cooking oil in your sink. Not only it’s hazardous to the environment, but it would clog the plumbing and cause considerable damage to your wallet.)

Then, you find a startup in your area that collects cooking oil. They would even pay you.
Do you wonder? Why would someone pay for something that it’s practically trash?
Because they are making a profit out of it. Used cooking oil can be repurposed to make various products namely, soaps and detergents, biofuels, animal feed, lamp oils, paint removals, lubricants, etc. You like the idea. It is ecofriendly and solves your problem without creating further waste.

Start digging deeper into your waste for inspiration. You find your old smartphone. You stopped using it because its screen broke. At the time you couldn’t fix it because your electronics retailer had very long waiting lines or some related reason. Electronic waste-also known as e-waste it’s one of the fastest-growing domestic polluters worldwide. Used phones, laptops, toys, and household appliances create mountains of e-waste. According to the UN’s Global E-waste Monitor 2020, a record of 53.6 million metric tons of electronic waste was produced in 2019. Moreover, the report added that an estimated $57billion in recoverable materials such as gold, platinum, silver, and copper, which are, used in electronics were mostly dumped or burned, rather than being collected and reused. Think about $57 billion is higher than some countries' GDP.

An electronics repair business sound like a nice business idea. It would serve both people and the planet.
The same could apply to an auto repair business idea.

What else? Of course, fashion. How could you forget about the monster in your closet? There are so many things that are so wrong with fashion nowadays. From child labor, animal cruelty, chemical pollution of waterways, microplastics, and tons of landfill waste, fast fashion has been hurting the planet in many different ways. At the same time, all that greenwashing going on in the industry, by brands that use sustainable terms without committing to it, has turned consumers more skeptical. Therefore, they turn to a business that focuses on fashion innovation and upcycling.
The movement is growing in popularity as famous personalities have been part of it. They did it by reusing, repurposing, redesigning, embellishing, or donating their clothes. Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton, musician and songwriter Will.i.am, actress Cate Blanchett, actor Joaquin Phoenix, and many others are raising awareness on fashion sustainability.

Upcycling fashion brands are seen as a solution to the mess made by the fast fashion industry. They provide options for responsible and ethical repurposing of used clothes. Of course, that denim and jewelry can fall into this category.

Do you have more ideas? Depending on your skills and talent you can give a fresh look or new life to all sorts of waste. Furniture, fabric, textiles, electronics, and certain foods such as cooking oil, can become part of a circular economy model. Innovators like you are needed to start those businesses that benefit the people and the environment.

Do you find this idea inspiring? You can get even more motivated if you take our entrepreneurship training. That would provide significant help to develop your business concept. If you need advice from other experienced entrepreneurs, we suggest you submit your idea or project to the 2022 Citizen Entrepreneurship Competition (#CEC22). Then, the online community at the Entrepreneurship Campus can help you improve it.

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