Startup Spotlight: Frontline Waste Systems from USA

Looking to the US there are some truly promising startups with great ideas tackling the climate challenge – and they are ready to scale to the rest of the world!
Frontline Waste Systems is one of them and we are grateful to have them on board as a participant of the Energy Transition Award 2017.

These guys developed a small, self-fueling & mobile combustor that they believe could anchor a new way to locally get rid of waste that can lead to much healthier “waste free” small cities in developing countries, and also create clean energy. How cool is that? We had the chance to talk to Founder & President Rob Steir about his startup, their challenges and what they need to take Frontline Waste Systems to new heights.

Describe your product and its history! What is your unique value proposition and your business model?

We offer a small-scale waste processing, recycling and disposal system for small cities (under 200,000) in developing countries, refugee camps and island nations that currently rely mostly on open burning or using unsanitary garbage dumps. Our core technology is a self-fueling small-scale & mobile combustor that cleanly destroys the leftover residual waste (after composting & recycling).   It is the brainchild of one inventor and 1000 hours of proven prototype efforts. Each Starter MRF delivers waste reduction (up to 25,000 tons/year), high recycling results (up to 80%), healthier environments and offers real productivity impact – at a low upfront investment. We will sell directly to buyers and seek global manufacturing licensees/partners.

What is your vision in regards to the future of the energy economy? And how does your product contribute to this future?

Developing countries will recognize the synergistic benefits of building out both universal energy for its citizens (improving wealth & consumption) and universal sanitary waste management (better health & cleaner environment).  Not only will both significantly improve the standard of living and quality of life for the 3-4 billion who live without formal waste systems, but our global environment will significantly improve as we stop openly burning waste and using unsanitary garbage dumps.
What’s great about our low-cost and  small-scale waste system is our ability to work with local governments to deploy them, one at a time, within defined collection areas where their local economies are growing fastest and where clean cities with clean energy will be most needed.

What are, in your opinion, the key challenges of the energy transition in general, and what are they specifically for your startup?

It sounds wonderful –universal energy will improve the lives of people in small cities and rural areas. With increased prosperity, however, comes increased consumption and a lot more waste. Proper sanitary waste disposal will become a huge issue in areas without.
A key challenge will be how to avoid civil unrest in these areas  if the greatest energy transition impact and capital spending occurs in the largest developing cities that have huge energy, pollution and waste issues, without finding solutions for poorer areas that still rely on open burning or using unsanitary garbage dumps (62% of world). It’s easy to spend $100M in Mumbai or Lagos.  The challenge exists to channel similar money for a 100 smaller cities and rural areas.

Where are you based, and who are the key innovation drivers in the energy ecosystem in your region?

I am based in New York City. My other two founders are in California. Speaking about NY’s energy ecosystem, I’ve had the privilege to work as a mentor for PowerbridgeNY, a cleantech startup program for NY university technologies.  It is funded by NYSERDA, a forward-thinking state energy organization.  NYSERDA’s commitment to the Energy Economy and innovation is impressive and they are definitely leading the way both in NYC and the entire State, especially focused on innovations for urban cities, with solar leading the way.  NYC is an ideal laboratory!
I participated in this year’s Northeast Region’s CleanTech Open accelerator with 33 other young companies, and saw firsthand the tireless commitment of volunteer staff and mentors.

Which results for your startup do you expect from the Tech Festival by DENA in March 2017?

We think the EU is better at waste and recycling innovation. In the US, we have a mature integrated waste industry dominated by a few players, and, for the most part, lots of land and fairly inexpensive landfill fees. Europe has the opposite problems.

By presenting at the Tech Festival, we expect to meet serious investors, strategic waste operating partners, and committed buyers. We think, collectively, they’ll recognize the value proposition of our small-scale combustor and Starter MRF, not just for developing countries but also for ROI one-off solutions for refugee areas, industrial sites with zero-waste initiatives, and smaller cities which are running out of landfill. Sure, one can ship waste to Sweden, but easier to do it onsite.

Frontline is a cleantech startup seeking seed capital to build its self-fueling & mobile (and production-ready) combustor that will anchor a distributed & decentralized system for local waste processing, recycling & disposal for small cities (under 200,000) in the developing world. Our waste system delivers waste reduction (up to 25,000 tons/year), high recycling results (up to 80%), healthier “waste-free” environments and offers real productivity impact – at a low upfront investment.

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