Aldous Hicks, CEO and Founder of ReCircle Recycling, talks to Trend-Monitor about delivering the circular economy and emerging technologies that will impact home design in the future.
The ReCircle is a prototype appliance for home and business use, that has been designed to sort, wash, and grind recycling into pure materials before selling it to manufacturers to turn back into its original product. ReCircle’s sensors ensure that plastics, metals, etc. are kept separate before they’re washed, ground and compacted into pure recycled materials. The containers are emptied and the owner reimbursed for the weight of materials gathered
Interview by Emma Hedges
TM. How and why did ReCircle Recycling come about?
AH. After a frustrating day in 1992 with a software client attempting to reduce the GIGO, that evening when putting out the bins, I realised the software problem was similar to the domestic waste process. Within months, I wrote a one-page description of a ReCircle appliance.
It took 14 years before I was ready to patent the product, and a further 13 years for us to be ready to finance the prototype development.
ReCircle itself is not about reducing waste – it is about never creating waste. This might seem pedantic, however, it is key to understanding how to deliver the circular economy. If waste is produced, then that is the end of the road.
The circular economy is about never letting used materials be anything else other than an input to its next use. Waste does not come into the equation. If it is, the circular economy will never work and the pollution (waste) in the atmosphere, in the ocean and on land will continue the merry dance is has up until now.The circular economy is about never letting used materials be anything else other than an input to its next use – Aldous Hicks, CEO of ReCycle Recycling @aldousmhicks @ReCycleRecycling Click To Tweet
TM. You are 83% of the way towards your crowdfunding target to develop the prototype – what are your next steps?
AH. When we hit our £500K funding target, we will immediately commence the development of the prototype.
We’ll start with pre-design layout work, the material flow schematics and used-material input and closed-loop output product specifications. With these starting points, our mechanical engineering team of three world-leading experts in innovative appliance development and design, will commence work.
We’ll also be looking for UK companies to handle manufacture of the appliance components and prototype assembly.
TM. How do you see UK consumers adopting the ReCircle technology, and who is your target demographic?
AH. When ReCircle is rolled-out in the UK, the normal household appliance convenience, plus the additional time saving benefits will appeal to busy time-stretched householders.
The first version of a ReCircle appliance will allow householders to close-loop recycle their used plastic, glass and metal containers and packaging. Following versions will include plastic film, paper and cardboard and organics (food waste).
Users will enjoy knowing they are delivering an environmental positive to the planet by reducing their carbon dioxide equivalent emission footprint.
There will also be a free-home pickup service. Not one of these benefits is currently delivered by the existing domestic UK recycling services. Delivering a cash-return to UK households for the closed-loop recycled products they produce will be the icing on the cake.
TM. What other technologies do you see emerging in the coming years that will influence home design?
AH. The most important technology I see emerging is bio-domes. These are amazing pieces of equipment. They will provide a closed-loop water supply to households and apartment blocks.For the home, the most important technology I see emerging is bio-domes. They will provide a closed-loop water supply to households and apartment blocks – Aldous Hicks @ReCircleRecyle #circulareconomy Click To Tweet
In effect, they are reverse-hydroponic green houses. The household’s brown water, i.e. all used household water other than sewage (black water), will be passed through a home’s or apartment block’s bio-dome.
The bio-dome, due to the oxidising power of plant roots, will clean the water passing through, and this can then be re-used (although not as drinking water).
Inside the green house, with plants respiring, the resultant water vapour will be condensed and captured and this will be the household’s drinking water. This water will supplement the capture of rainwater from the home or apartment block roof.
TM. How do UK consumers differ in their attitudes to recycling to the rest of the world?
AH. The UK still does not have a DRS (deposit return system). California has had one since 1987. South Australia has had one since early 2000s. Unfortunately, while UK residents seem keen to recycle, they have not yet demanded deposit return systems.
Parts of Europe and the US are ahead of the UK. While a bottle deposit system does not achieve a lot for closed-loop recycling it indicates a community’s (people and politicians) desire to implement such systems.
TM. What is your vision for ReCircle in five years?
AH. Our vision for ReCircle is to have completed two successful years of the first roll-out in California. With that success behind us, we envisage within a couple of years ReCircles will be rolled out into UK households.
We plan to bring other versions of ReCircles to hospitals, factories, building sites, airports, educational institutions, event and entertainment centres, sporting venues and public places. For domestic ReCircles we will extend the used materials that are processed to include plastic films, paper and cardboard, and organics.