They were initially a bit hesitant to give interviews. Because anyone who shouts loudly must also be able to show something, knows Joost Kamermans (29), co-founder of Seenons. He and his partner Jorn Eiting van Liempt (44) only started their waste adventure two years ago. And they are still very hard to build.
The company now has more than thirty employees and the team will move to larger premises in the Houthavens in Amsterdam next month. Seenons has to expand there, with the help of an initial investment of six million euros. The money comes from Dutch investors Tablomonto, Shamrock and Capital T.
And all this with a piece of smart software. Seenons is the digital link between companies that want to get rid of their waste and the parties that collect and process it. “We noticed that sometimes four garbage trucks drive through the street, all to empty their own bin,” says Kamermans. This can be done better: by matching supply and demand.
Uber from waste
A bit like Uber: the driver who is nearby comes to collect the waste. This saves kilometers and costs. About a hundred companies in the Netherlands work with the software, says Kamermans. Offices, catering companies and food chains such as Yoghurt Barn on the one hand and transporters and processors such as DPD and Renewi on the other.
“We don’t do household waste yet, but I don’t rule it out for the future,” says the entrepreneur.
After all, it is not just about more efficient collection: the ultimate goal is reuse.
“Of course you can find that out all by yourself, and connect numerous partners to your company,” says Kamermans. “Or you do it through us.” With algorithms and sometimes with dirty hands. “We’ll come by and dig through your garbage.”
In this way it is examined what a new goal can be given. According to the entrepreneur, this is badly needed. More than 2 million tons of industrial waste is incinerated in the Netherlands alone every year, the startup says, based on government data. And at least a quarter of that must ultimately be reusable.
Orangecello and circular gin
From plastic and textiles to old bread, there are now seventeen types of waste that can be processed via Seenons. Orange peels, for example, go to Dik en Schil, who turn them into circular gin or ‘orangecello’. And coffee grounds become a base for ink and soap.
The remains are collected separately by the participating entrepreneurs and collected and processed for a fee each time. “The costs depend on the type of waste and the processor,” says Kamermans.
He himself does not earn from the processing. Seenons takes a margin on the cost savings they realize for the waste services, according to the entrepreneur. The founder does not want to disclose how much that is or how much waste the company now processes. “We still have relatively small volumes and are still doing research,” he says.
It has to be different
Growth is therefore the goal, because waste is the new gold. Metals and e-waste, for example an old mobile phone, are especially valuable, the company knows. “The processes within the waste industry have to change structurally,” says Tamara Obradov of investor Tablomonto. We have to learn to deal with our raw materials differently.
The switch to a circular economy, in which there is no waste, is only a tough one, Kamermans knows. Things are not really going smoothly in the Netherlands yet, the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) concluded in a report this year.
Consume less and reuse more. But will that work? “To take the next step in the transition, it is necessary for policy to make greater use of pressure and coercion in the short term,” said the PBL. There is still a long way to go.
The knowledge and skills are there, Kamermans thinks. “There are many recyclers and consultants and in the US even two competitors of his company. But at the core, the current waste chain is complex. “It is full of wrong incentives,” says the entrepreneur. For example, municipalities can be fined if they use less waste. deliver to the processors than agreed.
New companies should do something about this, says Seenons. “What we are doing is not wishful thinking, it is already possible, and without subsidies,” says Kamermans. He will therefore soon be aiming his arrows at Europe.