The annual NextCycle Michigan Summer Showcase put the spotlight on 17 teams (listed below) from Michigan and beyond, pitching reuse, recycling, composting, and recycled-content projects. An expert judging panel and an audience of entrepreneurs, small businesses, brands, investors, community representatives, and recycling industry professionals gathered last month on the Eastern Michigan University campus to hear the teams’ innovative and collaborative ideas – part of the state’s journey to a stronger circular economy.

NextCycle Michigan, an initiative of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), is designed to advance businesses and projects that build capacity and markets for material recovery, reuse, and recycling in Michigan. EGLE Director Phil Roos provided the keynote address and highlighted Michigan’s efforts to minimize waste and increase innovative and scalable solutions.

“It’s imperative that we move toward a sustainable future, not only to ensure that our children and grandchildren enjoy the wonders of the Great Lakes State – as we have – but to continue leading in a rapidly changing economic landscape,” Roos said. “EGLE is proud to lead the NextCycle initiative, which is leveraging public and private investment in Michigan’s recycling system to put materials that were headed to the landfill back into the supply chain.”

Selected teams receive access to research, mentorship and one-on-one coaching, a multiday accelerator camp, business planning, pitch development, and matchmaking with potential partners and funders. The Showcase is the culmination of the six-month program where teams pitch their projects, vie for awards, seek investment, and connect with partners.

The program is strategically designed to meet participants where they are and focus on the success of solutions. With an emphasis on reducing barriers, the program is free for participants and businesses completing the program do not sacrifice any equity and can focus on reaping the benefits of a technical and collaborative program.

The June 12 Summer Showcase featured projects organized into two tracks:

  • FLOWS Track: The Food, Liquids & Organic Waste Systems (FLOWS) Accelerator Track supports projects that transform any aspect of organics recovery in Michigan, from food donation to food scrap recovery to new market development for finished compost.
  • RIT Track: The Recycling Innovation & Technology (RIT) Accelerator Track supports projects that advance new material recovery technologies, waste minimization techniques, or other advancements in sustainable materials management.

Monetary and in-kind prizes totaling $26,000 were awarded to teams that presented a five-minute pitch and answered questions from the panel of judges. In a surprise announcement, Julie Staveland, assistant division director for EGLE’s Materials Management Division, announced a total of $85,000 in Harvest Grant funding would be distributed to the 17 teams ($5,000 to each team) that presented pitches at the Summer Showcase.

“You have sown the seeds and grown your projects. It is now time to harvest those endeavors and take it to the next level,” Staveland said. “We believe in the work you are doing, and in the mission, and we will continue to invest in you, the change makers.”

The NextCycle Michigan Summer Showcase winners are:

  • Hemp for Humanity of Three Rivers, Michigan, utilizing industrial hemp production waste, agricultural waste, and building deconstruction waste as viable building materials, won the $10,000 FLOWS Best Pitch Award, sponsored by RRS. Hemp for Humanity also won the $500 FLOWS People’s Choice Award, sponsored by the Michigan Organics Council.
  • Design Declassified of Grand Rapids, Michigan, utilizing plastic waste from residential and commercial sources to manufacture plastic sheets that can be used for building materials or other purposes, won the RIT Make it in Michigan Award of in-kind technical support valued at $10,000, sponsored by Centrepolis Accelerator at Lawrence Technological University.
  • PittMoss of Ambridge, Pennsylvania, a manufacturer seeking to develop a Michigan facility to use locally sourced recycled paper fibers to manufacture soilless gardening mixes, soil amendments, and animal bedding, won the $500 RIT People’s Choice Award, sponsored by the Michigan Recycling Coalition.
  • Two tied winners split the $5,000 Business Growth Award, provided by the Michigan Economic Development Corp.’s Pure Michigan Business Connect:
    • Chippin’ In of Detroit collects foil-lined products like chip bags and candy bar wrappers to upcycle into sleeping bags for people experiencing homelessness.
    • Beaver Island’s St. James Township in northern Lake Michigan is seeking to develop programs to reduce organics and food scraps getting shipped off the island to be landfilled.
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