By Alexina Prather

Waste management systems on university and college campuses are often either nonexistent or inefficient. Miami-based startup Cycle Technology aims to change that.

Founded by a group of University of Miami students, Cycle was designed to provide both an environmental benefit and a social benefit. By developing efficient ways to recycle on university campuses, Cycle is reducing the amount of landfill waste and plastic that ultimately ends up in our oceans and waterways. The startup has also developed a business model that allows universities to donate a percentage of their proceeds to charitable causes and local organizations, creating a win-win scenario that incentivizes the user to recycle consciously.

The student-run team behind Cycle has grown significantly over the past few months and now includes eight undergraduate students and two post-grads from around the country with a range of educational backgrounds. The group first came together with the help of TAMID’s Miami Chapter when they participated in the Hult Prize Pitch Competition (November 2018). At the time, the group participating was all freshman students, and they were inspired to develop Cycle further when they won third place at the competition.

The group has worked closely with the Assistant Dean of the Miami Herbert Business School, Ellen McPhillip, and gained support from other entrepreneurial resources on the university’s campus such as The Launch Pad.

More recently, the team traveled to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates to work with local and multinational stakeholders in an effort to implement a municipal and commercial recycling pilot program next year to increase the recycling rates of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, said Anwar Khan, CEO of the startup.

How Cycle works

The co-founders explained that most waste management systems on university campuses allow for contaminated materials to be dumped into waste streams, which can lead to both contamination and heavy fines for the institution. Additionally, 9 out of 10 bottles that are placed in a recycling bin won’t be recycled due to other inefficiencies throughout the process.

Cycle is using the Reverse Vending Machine to solve these issues. This technology has been used for 40+ years, especially in Europe. These machines have the ability to eliminate contamination and teach individuals proper recycling practices. Cycle pairs the reverse vending machine with an app that will provide users with rewards for their recycling.

The user places their recyclable cans or bottles in the machine; the RVM then ensures that it is not contaminated and can accept the material. The user is then prompted with a QR code on the screen that the user scans with their mobile app. This provides users with Cycle Points that can be donated to preferred charities. The user also has the ability to purchase products from Cycle’s partners in a sustainable marketplace within the app. The app is available now on the iOS store.

A percentage of the proceeds collected by selling the post-consumer materials are then donated to charities and local organizations. The first charity available is rebuilding a primary school based in Ghardi, India. Khan has seen first hand how detrimental the recycling problem in India is, with the help of Cycle he hopes to not only change the culture of recycling in the US but support causes on a global scale. 

Next steps

Cycle – which won its category in the Miami Herald Pitch Competition this spring — was scheduled to launch on the university’s campus mid-March 2020. Due to the closure of the campus, the launch was pushed back. Cycle plans to operate on a semester-long trial period with the university. Once the concept is validated, Cycle would like to bring 10 machines on campus. The startup has raised $200K in friends and family and funding, Khan said.

In the meantime, the team of undergraduate students is learning early on how to develop professionally. They are playing to the strengths on their team and seeking mentorship and advice when needed. They are aware that recycling startups tend to be underfunded, but recognize they are coming into a market at a time when environmental awareness is at an all-time high. The team is excited to be speaking with other private partners internationally and domestically that are interested in bringing Cycle Technology to their campus to help make a large scale impact in both waste management and global charities. 

The Details: 
  • Headquarters: Miami
  • Year founded: 2019
  • UMiami Co-Founding Team: Anwar Khan – CEO, Colin Hively – Head of Strategy, Harrison Mount – CTO, Julie Young – Head of Marketing, Connor Pohl – Project Manager, Noah Barrows – CFO
  • No. of employees: 10 (includes students in other schools)
  • Financing: $200K in angel funding
  • Recent accolade: Cycle was a winner in the 2020 Miami Herald Pitch Competition.
  • Website: https://cycletechnology.com/

 

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Nancy Dahlberg
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