Garbage tech: A race to turn waste into resources

Did you know that 70 per cent of the waste thrown in trash bags in Oslo ends up there by mistake? In Bergen the startup WasteIQ has found a solution, and now they want to conquer Norway – and the world.
Norwegian Bokmål

This is WasteIQ

WasteIQ delivers solutions for renovation companies, shopping centres and housing associations that want to handle their waste in a sustainable and profitable way. The company uses technology to match disposal units and users, and in that way trace what is being disposed of and when. This is a great way of improving both infrastructure and logistics in relation to waste.

Read more about WasteIQ

Using the insights collected by WasteIQ technology, new tax models can motivate users to become more sustainable. What’s more, better ways of sorting means that there is an opportunity to turn some of this waste into valuable resources rather than just disposing of it as rubbish.


“It’s a race to turn waste into resources, but it’s not just a national problem. It’s a global challenge,” says Tore Totland, who in 2017 co-founded WasteIQ. The company originated from an innovation project at BIR, Bergen’s waste management company.

Pay-as-you-throw

A few years ago Bergen’s renovation company BIR, a large customer of Nordea, tried to predict the future. They realised they had to be serious about sustainability challenges.

This realisation led to launch of WasteIQ, with some help and guidance from Nordea. Since then the company has come far and is now scaling up commercially.

“Before, it was impossible to check what could have been saved from the waste bags until we opened them, but by then it was too late. Now we can track the waste where it is thrown away, whether it’s in the kitchen, in a commercial building or at a shopping centre where you just enjoyed an ice cream. We have a better overview, which means we can take efficient steps immediately,” says Totland.

Tore Totland

Tore Totland, one of the founders of WasteIQ, is working to change our view on garbage and waste. PHOTO: WasteIQ

When BIR introduced WasteIQ’s system in Bergen, they started with a “pay-as-you-throw” solution. This led to a nine percent reduction in residual waste. At the same time the sorting rate increased considerably.

“In Bergen people are now paying for their actual waste, like an electricity bill. That, combined with the fact that people really want to contribute to a better environment, means that we’re seeing a change,” says Totland.

It’s a race to turn waste into resources, but it's not just a national problem. It’s a global challenge.

Tore Totland, WasteIQ

Waste as a resource

WasteIQ is not content to just assess how we can sort our waste in the best possible way – they also challenge our fundamental view waste. Totland mentions coffee, which can be a resource rather than waste if it’s sorted early enough.

“We went to a shopping centre and discovered right away that we were able to guide user behaviour. Three months yielded one tonne of coffee grounds, an example of a resource that should not become waste,” says Totland, adding:

“In this case we can turn waste costs into income, and it will have an enormous impact on the environment. We want to enable companies interested in making use of such resources.”

Norselab

Norselab’s Chief Investment Officer Yngve Tvedt. PHOTO: Norselab

This is Investor Speed Dating

Several times a year, Nordea holds a digital version of Investor Speed Dating – a matchmaking event where startups and scaleups get the opportunity to meet local and global investors. As the biggest bank in the Nordics, with a large network of professional investors and global VC funds, Nordea plays an important role in putting growth companies in contact with investors.

Find out when the next round of Investor Speed Dating takes place.

Read more and apply here

Connecting entrepreneurs with investors

To get to where they are today, the start-up has received substantial help from Nordea. The bank was crucial in the process of matching WasteIQ with the Norselab growth fund, where the former alpine skier Aksel Lund Svindal is one of the partners.

“Carsten Werner and his team at Nordea have gone above and beyond. They’ve acquainted themselves with the basics of our business, which is very positive. We are not used to banks funding tech startups,” says Yngve Tvedt, Chief Investment Officer of Norselab.

“When working with startups we use our insight and network to match the startups with the right investors. Opening doors can be difficult for startups, and we help with that,” says Carsten Werner, Relationship Manager at Nordea Startup & Growth.

Carsten Werner

Carsten Werner from Startup&Growth

Werner describes his unit as a “spearhead unit” and explains that they select companies based on the company’s growth outlook and scale-up potential, but also from a sustainability perspective.

“WasteIQ is a really good example. BIR could see that they would need to comply with sustainability requirements down the line. They embraced the challenge and invested in their own technology and other startups. This has now proven to be a valuable opportunity,” says Werner.

Thina Saltvedt, Chief Analyst in Group Sustainability at Nordea, has nothing but praise for WasteIQ. She underlines the important role the banking sector plays in creating a more sustainable future.

Capital is the key to the green shift, and entrepreneurs are key to a lot of the progress in our society. Helping entrepreneurs build a sustainable business is one of the best ways in which Nordea can engage in society, she says.

What is circular economy?

The world’s natural resources are under increasing pressure. That’s why it’s critical for the climate, nature and the environment that the resources are used far more efficiently.

In a circular economy it’s important that a product’s life cycle is as long as possible, and the product must be repaired, upgraded and to a larger degree reused. When it can’t be reused anymore, the material can be recycled and used as raw material in new production. This way the same resources are used multiple times, with as little waste as possible.

Source: Norwegian Environment Agency

Ticking all boxes

Nordea helped WasteIQ succeed: In February, Norselab put NOK 30 million on the table to secure just under 30% of the shares in the startup.

“We invest in growth companies with a clear and positive contribution to people and our planet. At a deeper level we like companies that work to digitalise products and services in industries with a low degree of digitalisation. WasteIQ definitely ticked all the boxes,” says Yngve Tvedt from Norselab.

He stresses that WasteIQ is dealing with a global challenge, and that their plans are not limited to Norway.

“At the moment we are focusing on entering the market in the big Norwegian cities. We are present in Bergen and Bodø and are working to establish ourselves in the Lillestrøm and Moss regions,” says WasteIQ founder Totland. He adds:

“The really interesting thing is that the problems we are solving in Norway are much bigger internationally. In 12 to 18 months, we will expand internationally.”

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