Funding for PLAEX's automatic waste sorting bins
PLAEX Technologies is developing the ‘Garby’, a smart waste bin that can automatically sort waste using artificial intelligence (AI). PLAEX Technologies, a spin-off from the University of Twente, can further develop their technology with Vroegefasefinanciering Overijssel (VFF Overijssel). Oost NL manages VFF Overijssel, working closely with Novel-T. PLAEX Technologies is a portfolio company and an active member of the Dutch New Narrative Lab (DNNL) community.
‘Throw away your trash and the bin does the rest’ – That is the promise of PLAEX Technologies. At its core, the company is an IT company developing smart technologies for waste management. The start-up is making a substantial contribution to reducing the amount of non-recycled waste. In the Netherlands, we produce almost 490 kilos of waste per person per year. At home, we separate 60% of our waste. Other waste is incinerated as residual waste or ends up in a landfill. At business sites, this percentage is 10 per cent lower than at home. PLAEX therefore initially targets the business and event market.
Automatic waste sorting: more recycling, less costs
The Garby works differently from other waste bins states Tyrell Pantophlet, co-founder, Chief Executive & Technical Officer of PLAEX: “The Garby can use a visually intelligent system to recognize the type of waste it receives, sort it and store it in separate containers. For this, we programmed and trained the AI engine ourselves based on a large database of waste.” Pantophlet studied Advanced Technology at the University of Twente, but grew up on St Maarten: “There, problems with waste are extensive; it ends up in a landfill where it is burnt, resulting in smoke that occasionally makes it difficult to breathe. I therefore came to the Netherlands to study and make a difference in this social and environmental problem.”
So that is what Pantophlet is doing with his partners at PLAEX. Together with brothers John and Victor Okoro, he started the company in Enschede in 2020. PLAEX has since run successful pilots at the RAI and the FC Utrecht and FC Twente stadiums, among others. Such event locations are a suitable place for the Garby: “Behavioral change is difficult to teach, particularly when it comes to waste separation. That plus the perceptibly infinite variations of packaging materials that producers introduce into the market, it is often impractical to expect that people will always accurately and optimally sort their waste. However, our technology automatically sorts waste, eliminates human error and thus ensures cheaper waste management and a cleaner, more circular future”, says Victor Okoro co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer at PLAEX.
Funding for further technological improvement
The funding from VFF Overijssel will enable PLAEX to further develop the Garby. “We want to increase the speed of sorting. And because we want to use the bin at event locations, it is important to make the design more robust. We are also improving the waste database and operation for end users. These are all developments that take time, and the loan from VFF Overijssel ensures that we get that necessary time,” Pantophlet said.
Sipke van der Meulen, investment manager Energy & Circular at Oost NL: “For early stage companies, it is difficult to invest in R&D. VFF Overijssel offers a solution for this. We focus on entrepreneurs who contribute to solutions for social issues. And PLAEX certainly does: with a young and driven team, they have developed an innovative product that has the potential to make a substantial contribution to reducing waste and increasing the reuse of raw materials.”
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VFF Overijssel is co-funded by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate (EZK) and the province of Overijssel. Together with Oost NL, the Overijssel startup support programmes Novel-T and Kennispoort Regio Zwolle form the counters for VFF Overijssel.
Shining example of the innovative positive power of diversity and inclusion
Ruben Brave, founding partner of Dutch New Narrative Lab: “Tyrell’s entrepreneurial journey reads like a movie from the stable of Marvel Studios: Tyrell, who was previously an international Taekwondo champion at a very young age, became frustrated because no one seemed to genuinely want to attempt to solve the rubbish disaster on this part of the Caribbean Netherlands. At some point, he realized that no one intrinsically wanted to solve this and decided to quit sports and focus entirely on his other passion: being a tech entrepreneur. To both find a sustainable solution to waste and create enough wealth to tackle the waste problem on his beloved island. Stories like his provide unprecedented insight into people’s resilience to overcome seemingly insurmountable situations.”
And his story, especially in these difficult times, gives hope. “Hope that innovative entrepreneurship can be a force for good and an affirmation of the unwavering belief that diversity brings broad prosperity, for all.” DNNL will provide further support to PLAEX through application of scientific knowledge (valorization), corporate procurement, internationalization and financial resources. DNNL is a non-profit organization committed to innovative entrepreneurship for all underrepresented groups in the Dutch startup ecosystem.