German air purification start-up wins European circular economy award

Green City Solutions, an air purification start-up from Dresden in Germany, was named as winner of the Green Alley Award 2016 in Berlin last night (27 October), beating a field of five other finalists from across Europe, all start-ups developing innovative business models with a focus on the circular economy.

Coming out on top of an initial starting field of 200 business ideas, Green City Solutions’ winning idea consisted of the ‘City Tree’, an installation powered through photovoltaics and rainwater that uses a combination of special moss cultures and vascular plants to reduce air pollution, claiming to create a smog-free area with a radius of 50 metres around the installation.

German air purification start-up wins European circular economy award
City Trees have been installed in Hong Kong, Norway and Germany, with more planned in Europe and Asia.
The natural filters in a single four-metre high ‘City Tree’ absorb 100 kilogrammes (kg) of CO2 a year, a quantity it would otherwise require 275 trees to absorb. It also deals with other harmful gases like nitrous oxide.

The ‘City Trees’, which are already being used in Europe and Asia, use Internet-of-Things (IoT) technology (including WiFi, iBeacon and digital screens) to keep the units self-sufficient without the need for regular maintenance.

The Green Alley Award, launched in 2014 by Green Alley Investment GmbH and German crowdfunding platform Seedmatch, is Europe’s first award dedicated to the circular economy. It comes with a prize package of €30,000 worth of cash and services to the winners, as well as the opportunity to participate in an accelerator programme at Bethnal Green Ventures, one of the award partners.

Addressing ‘one of the biggest risks to humanity’

Commenting on Green City Solutions’ victory over ideas including a bacteria-powered light and a returnable lending system to reduce restaurant packaging, Jan Patrick Schulz, Managing Director at Green Alley Investment GmbH, said: “Green City Solutions has succeeded because they address one of the biggest risks to humanity. Their installation is a completely new solution with a large impact and can be implemented worldwide.”

Naomi Climer, former President and member of the British Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) and patron of the Green Alley Award 2016, added: “The jury was particularly impressed by the approach used by Green City Solutions because it combines modern IoT technology with ecosystem services. Their business can be easily applied and is scalable. Both factors played a key role in the decision process of the jury. From my perspective, all of the ideas have potential..” 

Indeed, the award, which is also run in partnership with the European Recycling Platform (ERP) Finland, has seen previous winners continue on an upward trajectory. 

2014 winner RePack, a Finnish returnable packaging start-up, is now expanding its business into Germany and the Netherlands, while 2015 winners Adaptavate, which develops ‘eco-friendly’ alternatives to plasterboard, made it into the 2016 Enginn Circular Challenge in the Netherlands.

Remaining finalists

The aim of the Green Alley Award is to encourage and honour innovative ideas to do with resource conservation and waste management.

Prior to the award presentation, the six finalists had the opportunity to participate in workshops with industry and waste management experts to refine their business ideas before presenting their pitches to the jury in the evening.

The remaining five finalists of the 2016 award were:

  • The Berlin-based Das Tiffin Projekt, a returnable lending system aiming to reduce restaurant packaging waste.
  • UK start-up Design by Sol, a food expiry label outfitted with gelatin that can be scanned to determine the freshness of food products.
  • Glowee, a French start-up that uses the power of bacteria to produce light.
  • Finland’s ResQ Club who created an app that reduces food waste by giving consumers the opportunity to purchase leftover food at a reduced price.
  • Restado, a German start-up that has created a digital platform to facilitate the purchase of unneeded building materials.

More information about Green City Solutions can be found on the company’s website.

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