Startup Of The Week

Startup Of The Week: Cirplus

Cirplus, a German scale-up, has developed a global B2B procurement platform for recycled plastics, connecting recyclers, compounders, plastic converters, and brand owners in sectors such as fast-moving consumer goods, (for packaging) construction, agriculture, home appliance and automotive. The company’s platform is used by more than 3,500 companies.

Cirplus says its goal is to establish a one stop shop for recycled plastic procurement to reduce the transaction costs for using recyclates on a global scale. “We are not recycling ourselves, we are digitizing the process around buyers and sellers, to make the process more efficient,” says founder and CEO Christian Schiller, a seasoned entrepreneur who previously led the German operations for BlaBlaCar, a global ride-sharing service.

The circular economy considers every stage of a product’s journey – before and after it reaches the customer. “This approach is not only vital to stop plastic pollution, it also offers strong economic, social, and climate benefits,” according to the Ellen MacArthur Association. By 2040 a circular economy has the potential to reduce the annual volume of plastics entering the oceans by 80%; reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25%;  generate savings of $200 billion per year and create 700,000 net additional jobs.

Circular platforms also represent an opportunity for entrepreneurs. Today’s circular economy has a global value of nearly $410 billion, with platforms accounting for roughly a quarter of that, says circular marketplaces expert Peter C. Evans. By 2030 the circular economy is expected to be worth $1.5 trillion and circular platforms will account for nearly 60% of that, or $863 billion.

The supply network of Cirplus spans five continents and over four million tons of materials. At the moment, though, the price gap between recycled and virgin plastic is still too large, says Schiller. The existing petrochemical supply chain makes it cheaper for companies to buy virgin  plastic. Unless they are required to do so companies will not opt to pay more for recycled plastic “which is why regulations is super key – without it recycling will have no future,” says Schiller.

Europe is taking a lead on such legislation. On April 24 the European Parliament adopted new measures to make packaging more sustainable and reduce packaging waste in the EU. The rules, which have been provisionally agreed on with the Council, include packaging reduction targets (5% by 2030, 10% by 2035 and 15% by 2040) and require EU countries to reduce, in particular, the amount of plastic packaging waste. In adopting this legislation, Parliament is responding to citizens’ expectations to build a circular economy, avoid waste, phase out non-sustainable packaging and tackle the use of single use plastic packaging.

“This will put Europe in front of the whole world,” says Schiller,  a scheduled speaker at UnternehmerTum’s Forum in Munich on May 7, an invitation-only annual event attended by around 600 entrepreneurs, investors, and corporates.

Competitors include Rebound Exchange in the United Arab Emirates, which bills itself as a global hub for recycled plastics. 

Schiller says one of Cirplus’ key differentiators is that it is taking an active role in circular plastic standardization, having initiated, financed and published DIN SPEC 91446, the first standard for high-quality  plastic recycling and digitization. “This is an effort to build the trust necessary among big brands, small brands and recyclers alike to work with the new procurement approach offered by Cirplus,” says Schiller.  Its work has been critically acclaimed by industries and governments alike, resulting in its selection as one of only 20 advisors to the German government body drafting the National Circular Economy Strategy for Plastics (NKWS).

The company, which was founded in 2018 has raised more than €5 million.

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About the author

Jennifer L. Schenker

Jennifer L. Schenker, an award-winning journalist, has been covering the global tech industry from Europe since 1985, working full-time, at various points in her career for the Wall Street Journal Europe, Time Magazine, International Herald Tribune, Red Herring and BusinessWeek. She is currently the editor-in-chief of The Innovator, an English-language global publication about the digital transformation of business. Jennifer was voted one of the 50 most inspiring women in technology in Europe in 2015 and 2016 and was named by Forbes Magazine in 2018 as one of the 30 women leaders disrupting tech in France. She has been a World Economic Forum Tech Pioneers judge for 20 years. She lives in Paris and has dual U.S. and French citizenship.