Business sites can be made much more sustainable by working together in the field of waste and residual materials. PulsUp does this, for example, by having the waste from one company be used as raw material for another. Residual flows can thus be given new value. An online platform and a broker help to achieve that.
On behalf of PulsUp, Jan Jongert (partner) tells us more about the reuse of waste streams in business parks.
How did the idea for PulsUp come about?
As an architectural firm, we have been working with residual flows for some time now. For the realization of our designs, we mainly used discarded materials from the immediate surroundings. These came from demolished buildings or were sometimes production residues from industry. With this experience, we wanted to apply this reuse on a larger scale, for the industry itself. How can companies share residual flows with each other? What is possible locally? With the support of the Stimuleringsfonds voor architectuur, we were able to develop this idea further in 2015.
Can you explain the activities in more detail?
Our approach is a step-by-step plan. We first explain circular entrepreneurship and the opportunities created by the exchange of residual flows to businesses. Companies are usually not aware that they have a material that is superfluous but can still be used by their neighbor.
In practice, we have already succeeded in using grain as a residual product from a bakery as a raw material for a beer brewery. From the latter, CO2 has already gone into the production process of an algae farm. It is a process of discovering how raw materials can retain their value.
The next step is a Pulsscout that talks to the parties in and around a business park for research into opportunities and needs. An attempt is subsequently made to find figures on volume, quality and the value of material and energy flows. A raw materials broker is called in to assist companies in finding practical solutions for the exchange and reuse of existing waste flows of companies. An important tool is the Pulsapp. It is a digital, broker-managed online raw materials platform that provides insight into the available residual flows of companies in an area. Ideally, this app works with current data from applicants and suppliers of raw materials. The Pulsapp provides insight into material flows per business park, per type of residual flow and per production chain. Finally, results are presented, agreements are made for the future and responsibilities are transferred.
How does PulsUp differ from similar initiatives?
There are more and more marketplaces under development for stimulating the circular economy. This means matching the supply of discarded raw materials with the demand for residual materials that still have economic value. What is special is that we are doing this at an area level, for business parks.
In the future, we believe that even the selection policy for a business park should be based on how businesses can complement each other in a circular way, meaning whether one enterprise can be of value to another in terms of residual flows and vice versa. Together with PulsUp, we were able to provide the Rijnmond Environmental Service and the municipality of The Hague with our first assessment.
What has been your biggest success so far?
A pilot in China. A mega-business park there bought the first license for our platform. There was sufficient budget and a province with 130 business parks was interested. It looks promising. Recently in the Netherlands, the province of Zuid-Holland and environmental services have also shown interest in the concept.
And what are the setbacks?
There is one related to our success in China. There, a new requirement to work with proprietary software anywhere within three years threw a spanner in the works for our platform. The solution is now to set up a new company there, together with our sister company in China, in Hong Kong, to be able to continue with a pilot project.
Another shortcoming we have encountered is the sharing of data by companies to gain insight into residual flows and determine their value. The commodity broker has to build trust to do that. That works reasonably well.
How is PulsUp responding to the way in which it wants to make business parks circular?
It’s still a complex story for many companies to explain. But provinces and other authorities, for example, respond well. It fits in well with the aim to work circularly at the area level. However, there is a difference between the Netherlands and China, where all processes can be much faster. There is plenty of money and companies dare to go off the beaten track and enter into unexpected collaborations. In the Netherlands, since the announcement of the cabinet’s climate plans, we have fortunately met more and more companies of this kind.
On the other hand, you have companies with shareholders that look more to the short term. Then it becomes more difficult. They mainly have the near future in mind.
What does PulsUp have in store for next year?
The corona crisis makes the importance of exchanging information clear. If companies know from each other what raw materials and waste products they use, it will be much easier to buy from each other and to switch if international logistics are interrupted. In concrete terms, we are making preparations to start up and test our approach with business parks in the Dutch province of Zuid-Holland. And we are going to start a new company in Hong Kong.
Where will PulsUp be in five years’ time?
We hope to serve five to ten percent of Dutch business parks with our method.