King County and the State of Washington announce that Refugee Artisan Initiative, Ravel, and Restaurant 2 Garden, collectively won over $26,000 in awards at the inaugural Pitch Showcase from NextCycle Washington, a pitch competition and accelerator program for circular economy projects. The Pitch Showcase was held on March 23 at Kane Hall on the University of Washington Seattle campus and featured team presentations, guest speakers, and three awards scored by a panel of judges and one People’s Choice Award.

After having received months of business and technical support, mentoring, and planning to accelerate their projects, 14 teams, divided into Upstream and Downstream categories, presented their projects to judges as well as potential investors and project partners at the event. Upstream teams presented projects related to preventing waste or improving reuse and repair in Washington, while Downstream teams presented projects that improve recycling, composting and other use of waste materials.

“This Pitch Showcase was an exciting culmination of NextCycle Washington’s first accelerator cohort, allowing teams to pitch circular projects to potential funders, investors, and project partners,” said Andy Smith, King County Solid Waste Division Recycling and Environmental Services Manager. “We’re excited to see how this statewide initiative is supporting businesses and communities that are working to expand the circular economy in Washington and create a more just transition to an equitable future.”

Teams competed for cash prizes in four categories: Upstream, Downstream, Community Impact, and People’s Choice. The audience voted for the People’s Choice winner while the other awards were selected based on scoring from a panel of judges.

Refugee Artisan Initiative ended the day with two awards, the Upstream and People’s Choice awards. The $11,750 in funds will help support its project of keeping retired fire hoses from the US Forest Service out of landfills by repurposing them into marketable products while creating jobs for refugee women. Ravel won the Downstream Award. The $10,000 in funds will help support its project to commercialize novel technology and infrastructure for separating and recycling textile fibers, such as polyester and elastane, to produce circular textiles, enabling the endless recovery of textiles. Restaurant 2 Garden was awarded the $5,000 Community Impact Award for its work in creating a decentralized and hyper-local community composting operation using local restaurant food waste in the Chinatown-International District in Seattle.

Participating NextCycle Washington teams in the Upstream pitch included, GeerGarage, Just Right Bite, South King Tool Library, Okapi Reusables, Community Gearbox, Redesign Collective, and Refugee Artisan Initiative. Downstream teams included Glacier, Restaurant 2 Garden, Book Hill Group, Birch Biosciences, Glass Packaging Institute/Beverage Industry Glass Recycling, Duwamish Valley Sustainability Association, and Ravel. All team projects contributed to NextCycle Washington’s program mission of building a more sustainable, equitable, domestic recycling and reuse economy, driving demand for recovered commodities and organics, and creating a more circular economy in the state.

“The teams did an amazing job developing their business plans and projects throughout the accelerator process and now have had the opportunity to present to potential funders and partners.  I couldn’t be more proud of each and every one of them,” said Bryce Hesterman, senior consultant with Resource Recycling Systems (RRS), and project lead of the NextCycle Washington program. “Small businesses and community-based organizations are a powerful tool that can accelerate positive change in our economies, communities, and the environment. Every approach that weaves together innovation and partnership around a mission is unique and can improve outcomes and has the potential to generate scaled impacts.”

In addition to the fourteen accelerator teams, the event featured guest speakers Ashima Sukhdev, Climate Mitigation and Circular Economy Policy Advisor at Seattle Public Utilities, and Ambika Singh, a dynamic entrepreneur and the founder of Armoire, a designer brand clothing rental company. Sukhdev set the stage for what building a circular economy means and Singh showcased what a successful circular business model for fashion looks like having pitched in a similar event several years prior.

NextCycle Washington is a statewide initiative designed to support community-based organizations and businesses focused on waste prevention, reuse, recycling, composting, and use of recycled materials. It is a circular economy project accelerator for businesses and organizations providing grant funding and a technical support network for Washington State. NextCycle Washington offers mentorship from community leaders and industry subject matter experts and access to its professional network.

The program structure was developed through a co-design process with representatives of community groups, businesses, and local and state governments to ensure inclusive and accessible opportunities for a diverse range of organizations. Organizations with BIPOC, women, veterans, LGBTQIA2+, or disabled leadership account for over 60% of projects selected for this cohort.

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