Chattanooga Seeks To Drive Recycling With New Business Ideas

Entrepreneurs looking for money and sales to grow their business often present their ideas and products to investors and clients who may wish to buy or invest in their products or services.

But during Chattanooga Startup Week, the traditional sales pitch is reversed and entrepreneurs are presented with a problem to solve. Next month, during Startup Week, the city of Chattanooga will take the opposite step to help find solutions to its ongoing waste recycling challenge.

“Recycling and waste management processes are lagging behind for innovation,” said Christine DiPietro, program director for CO.LAB, the small business accelerator that coordinates the Chattanooga Startup Week. “It’s a great opportunity to test ideas and see what works in our city. “

Chattanooga was forced to temporarily suspend its curbside recycling program at the end of July due to a shortage of drivers.

To address the driver shortage, Mayor Tim Kelly included $ 30 million in pay increases for city employees in the city budget that city council passed on Tuesday, raising the wages of collection drivers by more. by 40%. The city plans to fill its remaining driver positions and resume regular recycling collection in October.

In the meantime, city officials are eager to find ways to improve the city’s recycling processes to make them more efficient and effective, including working with entrepreneurs for innovative solutions. Together with CO.LAB, the city is looking for ideas to test better recycling approaches through the Pitch and the Sustainable Development and Recycling Pilot Competition next month.

“I am delighted that the City of Chattanooga is partnering with CO.LAB during Startup Week Chattanooga to invite local entrepreneurs and the general public to share their ideas and innovations to ensure that our city is on the path to becoming a zero waste community. ”said Mayor Tim Kelly in a reverse pitch competition announcement.“ I consider myself lucky to be the mayor of a city where people care deeply about limiting waste and waste. “

Staff photo by D. Patrick Harding / Ben Cox, driver and garbage truck operator in Chattanooga City, controls a mechanical arm as he picks up a trash can. The city of Chattanooga will temporarily suspend its recycling service on July 30, 2021, due to a shortage of drivers. The city is funding a sustainability and recycling promotion and piloting competition next month to identify and test new ideas to improve recycling.

But even with a commitment to sustainability, DiPietro said recycling programs in most cities are outdated and often rely on supply chains for plastic, glass and other materials that don’t exist. more after China stopped importing most plastic waste, forcing many materials to simply be thrown out. in the landfill.

To identify new ways to improve recycling, composting and the waste stream, the city allocated $ 23,065 to CO.LAB to work with entrepreneurs to develop and test pilot programs that could improve recycling and limit the amount of waste going to landfill.

DiPietro said she plans to fund and work with two pilot programs with $ 3,500 in grants for each project and two more pilot programs with a budget of $ 5,000 for each idea.

Businesses with ideas on how to use technology, infrastructure, education and other ways to increase recycling and reduce landfill waste are invited to submit their ideas by Monday, October 3 to be eligible for funding at a pitch event scheduled during Startup Week for Tuesday, October 19 at noon.

A panel of judges will select the four best ideas to help meet the city’s recycling and waste challenges, based on ways to limit what goes to landfills, which improves the effectiveness and efficiency of programs. recycling, which promotes more composting and waste reuse and which can improve consumer education on effective ways to recycle and reduce waste.

Anyone with an idea can send a proposal by email to [email protected]

Contact Dave Flessner at [email protected] or 423-757-6340.

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