Plastics recycling is perhaps not the first thing to come to mind when thinking about Silicon Valley. As the birthplace of the innovation economy, however, its platforms offer a model for development in sectors beyond just the information technology industry. Recycled plastics, for example. Sustainable Plastics talked to Ian Arthurs, founder of Circular.co, about the platform he has launched as a marketplace for recycled and sustainable plastics.
A veteran of Silicon Valley, Ian Arthurs has always been really interested in supplying demand and finding easier ways to connect buyer and seller to what he described as "typically non liquid areas of the world." After working for companies such as Google, Airbnb and TaskRabbit (a handyman site currently owned by Ikea), he has now opted to put his long years of experience in building marketplace style platforms to good use with the development and launch of Circular.co.
His idea was to bring Silicon Valley thinking to manufacturing "in a really positive way."
After a year of research, working in collaboration with a venture capital company, he identified an opportunity that, while relatively well-known, is still unexplored from a technical perspective: the gap between supply and demand in recycled and sustainable plastics.
Arthurs discovered that for brand manufacturers, procuring the materials they want, with the required technical specifications and consistency, at the right price, was extremely challenging. He reasoned that technology could offer a solution by offering a way to connect recyclers, plastic waste collectors, buyers and manufacturers across all industries ‘to create positive economic opportunity that in turn would stimulate supply’.
“This would allow us to find solutions where solutions may not have existed before,” he explained.
“We’re a platform that really is intent on helping brands and manufacturers find the recycled or sustainable materials they need to meet their sustainability goals. And we offer all of the things that the best of Silicon Valley platforms offer to do that,” he added. “From efficient online contracts and trading, all the way through to shipping, logistics and payment, supported by a concierge and accessible market data. We feel that our platform reflects the way that plastics are bought and sold today — but made much easier.”
Right now, manufacturers must spend vast amounts of time to find suppliers who can provide the sustainable or recycled materials they need, in the volumes they need. Some have even been forced to rethink their sustainability target," he said.
“And the reality is, there is material out there. It's just hard to get because the price is too high, or the mechanism to actually get it is too hard; the market is opaque,” said Arthurs. “And now, we can help them. We put everything online. A manufacturer can go to circular.co, become part of our vetted community and then put a purchase order into our platform, and we match that demand order to existing or future available supply — contractible supply, not just spot market. This reflects the reality of this industry.”