Wasting Away: How Iceland is dealing with its waste

The inhabitants of the Western world are consumers. It is no secret that we produce more than we need and throw away more than we should. In a world where mass production is the norm, it is not a surprise that we are drowning in garbage. Our overconsumption has led to plastic in our oceans, massive deforestation, and let’s not talk about animal extinction.

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New Business Accelerator Focuses on Creating Value from Waste

A new business accelerator program pushing competitors to successfully design a new product or service in a matter of weeks has already yielded a number of innovative ideas, such as cosmetics made from carrots and beets which would otherwise be thrown out as waste. RÚV reports that the program, called Til sjávar og sveita (‘At sea and in the country’), is the first accelerator in Iceland that is especially geared toward the agriculture and fishery sectors.

The Til sjávar og sveita accelerator is operated by Icelandic Startups in collaboration with the Iceland Ocean Cluster and the support of IKEA, the Iceland’s Culinary Treasures project, the seafood company HB Grandi, and the Agricultural Cluster. Seventy applications were received for this year’s program; ten were selected. These participants spend seven weeks developing their ideas under the guidance of experienced entrepreneurs.

Melkorka Sigríður Magnúsdóttir, a project manager at Iceland Startups, says that one of the primary foci of the accelerator is utilizing materials that would otherwise be wasted, to create value from something that currently, is worth nothing. The competition, she says is intended to be a springboard for entrepreneurs and a venue for them to get assistance in building the next generation of companies within Iceland’s base industries.

Melkorka explained that so-called ‘mentor meetings’ form the backbone of the accelerator. Experts from across the industry spectrum take part in 30 meetings with the participating teams with the goal of accelerating the process from concept to complete product or service.

Three of the current teams are technology related and are working to develop technological solutions in the agricultural and fishing industries. The remaining seven are product-related, with ideas stemming from both industries. Among the various ideas currently being developed are a high-speed technology that prepares DNA diagnostic tests, a beer brewed from potato skins, digital fishing books, and drinkable carbonated sea water.