New York City has a goal to reach zero waste by 2030. To help the city reach that ambitious goal, approximately 100 product designers, engineers, waste and recycling experts and environmental lawyers teamed up in October to participate in Hack:Trash:NYC, a three-day collaborative competition to reduce waste in New York City. The theme for Hack:Trash:NYC was reuse, and the competition challenged teams to “develop and pitch an innovative product, business model, service, policy or education campaign that increases reuse in NYC and results in a meaningful reduction in waste”.
The organizing principle behind the event was that complex challenges require collaborative solutions. And as evidenced by the makeup of the winning teams, having cross-disciplinary collaboration along with input from seasoned experts can have a dramatic impact. Seventeen teams developed solutions focused on food waste, food packaging, digital platforms for repair services, education, and a range of digital exchange platforms.
The event kicked off on Friday, Oct 27th at Galvanize NY and featured keynote speaker DSNY Deputy Commissioner Bridget Anderson who presented the challenge before taking questions from participants. Participants then broke out to team up. Some teams arrived fully formed while others were looking to recruit particular expertise. By the end of the night, everyone had found a place and the teams were ready to go.
Saturday was a marathon of brainstorming, concepting and consulting. Experts from the waste sector, environmental law, policy, logistics and design were on hand to coach the teams and answer questions that came up. At the midpoint of the day, teams took the opportunity to present their nascent concepts to the organizing committee, expert consultants, and design strategists from the Global Design firm Desgnit, who facilitated portions of the event. These “mini-pitches” offered valuable feedback to the participants who were able to refine concepts or, in some cases, pivot in different directions. Teams came back for a second round of “mini-pitches” on Saturday evening and the changes and improvements were often dramatic.
On Sunday, everyone was back bright and early to hone their pitches to 5 minutes and prepare for presentations, which were made before a diverse panel of judges including Bridget Anderson, deputy commissioner for recycling and sustainability at the New York City Department of Sanitation; Margot Kane, chief investment and financial officer for the Closed Loop Fund; Mikal Hallstrup, founder and global CEO of Designit; Peter Raymond, principal at The New Bureau, and Aude Broos, strategist at Co:Collective.
In the end, three winning teams received prize money and the opportunity to to attend strategy and development sessions at Designit, The New Bureau, and Co:Collective before pitching their concepts to a VC roundtable. An additional prize went out to one team who was awarded a guaranteed pitch slot at the next Talk Trash City event.
Fix.ly (Co:Collective Winner)
Fix.ly was created with the idea of giving the items you love a second chance by offering a repair concierge service for small goods like shoes, accessories and small electronics We’re an app based service that utilizes chatbots (a chatbot is a computer program that simulates a conversation with human users) to ensure a quick and seamless experience so people can easily extend the life of their favorite items.
Through Fix.ly a user could discover what they need fixed, get matched with a vetted repair shop, get the item picked up and get it back repaired. Which is perfect for the modern millennial who doesn’t have time to worry or research how to repair their items. Instead of throwing away a pair boots due to a damaged heel and then walking into Zara to buy another pair, they can now use Fix.ly and get their favorite pair back within days.
All of this is possible through a future partnership withHomer Logistics and local repairs shops in New York city.
We’re aiming to convert an age old habit of buying new to replace to fixing and reuse. Our team is passionate about building a product that reduces consumerism and helps NYC get to zero waste by 2030.
Surplus Food Catering (The New Bureau Winner)
The Surplus Food Catering Project combines efforts of two nonprofits, Rescuing Leftover Cuisine and RoHo Compost, to convert surplus food into healthy meals for New Yorkers.
These organizations have existing relationships with New York food purveyors, including caterers, community shared agriculture groups and grocers, who discard thousands of pounds of healthy, edible food every day. RoHo and RLC will distribute a portion of this rescued food through the “Surplus Food Catering Service.”
Surplus food collected by both organizations will be consolidated at a rented commercial kitchen. The food will be processed and cooked by staff trained in safe-food handling. RLC and RoHo will recruit creative, tastemaker chefs to prepare the food. These chefs will improvise to create healthy meals out of the mixed surplus food received and use their business savvy to promote our project. At every step of processing or distribution, leftover food or scraps from events or our kitchen will be composted through RoHo’s composting operation.
The program has two main goals. First, feed food insecure populations in New York City who struggle to afford healthy, prepared food. Prepared food will be distributed to NYC’s food insecure populations, at local community events hosted by YMCA’s, gyms, or churches.
The second goal is to serve surplus food to New Yorkers who have the financial means to sustain the program. The surplus food will be catered for trendy events like gallery openings, music/outdoor events and brunch/dinner parties.
Revenue from the catered events targeting more affluent New Yorkers will subsidize the low cost/free food distribution we offer to food insecure New Yorkers. The project will cause a behavioral and psychological change in our communities’ perception of how to treat surplus food. We will do so by creating a fun, engaging, community building, educational, and sustainable dining experience.
The Milkmen (Designit Winner)
Our team, “The Milkmen” set out to find a solution to single-use packaging waste in NYC. We chose to focus on foodservice to-go containers from restaurants inside large commercial office buildings – a place where waste generation is internal and can be more accurately tracked.
In the spirit of the theme “Reuse”, our solution is a building-wide system of reusable containers that would be centrally washed and redelivered to foodservice vendors within the building, constantly staying in circulation and closing the loop on waste within the building’s ecosystem. Using facts and figures for one office building, the iconic Starrett-Lehigh at 601 West 26th St, this system of reusables would save over 500,000 clamshell containers, 500,000 coffee cups, and 15,000 trash bags from disposal to landfill each year.
We hope a successful run at Starrett-Lehigh would pave the way to replicate this system of reusables in buildings all across the city.
Hack Pack (Honorable Mention - Talk Trash City Winner)
Over the next decade meal delivery and subscription services are slated to become a $5 billion industry. Companies like Plated, Purple Carrot, HelloFresh, and Blue Apron are chasing the space, offering consumers the convenience of having groceries delivered to their doorstep and promise of minimizing post harvest food waste. An unfortunate byproduct of these services is the immense amounts of packaging waste that is generated and fed into the waste management system. Another downfall of existing packaging solutions is the effort and time required by subscribers of these services during the disposal process, oftentimes involving mental gymnastics regarding storage and recycling. Meal kit and grocery delivery providers have little incentive to recover packaging given the low cost and logistical challenges.
Our solution is called Hack Pack: a compact, reusable and 100% recyclable packages designed specifically for subscription-based meal kit services. The design features PET plastic with air filled pockets to provide better cushion and protection than corrugated cardboard. The collapsible external packaging connects to insulated internal packaging, eliminating excessive material waste. Consumers can simply fold up the packaging into the size of a large envelope and drop it off at any USPS mailbox.