Foto: Sandra Weerdenburg

Rotterdam Unlocked Organic Waste Challenge 2021

11 August 2021

Rotterdam produces 10 million kilograms of organic household waste every year, most of which has the potential to be transformed into valuable new materials. By 2030, The Netherlands has set itself an ambitious goal to have a 50% reduction in raw materials consumption, and by 2050 be a fully waste free economy. To make this happen, the pressure is on to find novel and disruptive technologies to achieve this goal. The City of Rotterdam has committed to this goal with its Circular and Sustainable programmes, alongside initiating the Rotterdam Unlocked Organic Waste Challenge.

This challenge was an opportunity for startups to test and scaleups to prove their waste transformation technologies. The winners of the challenge have the opportunity to work alongside the municipality on scaling their business to the city of Rotterdam together with local partners such as the petrochemical industry, the port, the food and horticultural sectors and other connected stakeholders.

Around 40 startups and 30 scaleups from around the world applied. From these applications, experts from the municipality of Rotterdam, Unknown Group and involved partners, selected six startups and six scaleups for in-depth interviews. During the interviews the potential of a pilot or validation trajectory together with the city and broader ecosystem was discussed. At the same time, participants had  the opportunity to get acquainted with Rotterdam’s network of companies that are key drivers for Rotterdam’s 2050 waste-free ambitions.

The three winning solutions of the Rotterdam Unlocked Organic Waste Challenge are: 

NETTEnergy (The Netherlands)

NETTEnergy develops pyrolysis (decomposition via high temperatures) installations producing renewable energy and materials on the basis of biomass from plants. Their idea, which will be further developed in a pilot study, is to utilize organic waste from households to produce hydrogen, which can be used to serve the households’ energy demand. The resulting biochar from this process can be used for soil improvement and stores CO2 at the same time.

Arbios Biotech (UK)

Arbios Biotech  is a joint venture between Licella and Canfor. With a vision to provide low-carbon circular economy solutions around the world using Licella’s breakthrough Cat-HTR™ technology, From post-consumer biomass and residues, Arbios will create high-value, sustainable carbon-based products, including advanced biofuels. Their solution will be leveraged by the City of Rotterdam to do a feedstock feasibility study.

TripleW (Israel)

TripleW is an industrial biotechnology company that develops and commercializes a process for production of lactic acid from food waste, which has the potential to be a gamechanger in the quest for circular economies. Like Arbios Biotech, TripleW’s solution will be leveraged by the City of Rotterdam to conduct a feedstock feasibility study.

The three winning companies indicated, among other things, that they are interested in establishing themselves in Rotterdam, because of the large port with a lot of industry and available raw materials, the location of the city in the near vicinity of the Westland, and the circular ambitions that Rotterdam expresses. They will now work with the Municipality of Rotterdam and its partners to set up a pilot or feasibility study.

For the second year running, Unknown Group’s “Unlocked” concept has been leveraged by the Municipality of Rotterdam to attain the city’s circular ambitions. Following the success of Rotterdam Unlocked in 2020, this year the event tackled one of the Municipality of Rotterdam’s key impact areas - organic waste. Startups from around the world applied for this challenge. Challenge partners were involved in selection, one-to-one dealmaking meetings and reviewing and providing insights for the selection of the winners.

Besides different departments of Gemeente Rotterdam, other partners involved were Innovation Quarter, Renewi, Greenport West-Holland, Rotterdam Partners, Clean Tech Delta, Engie, iTanks, Rijkswaterstaat, The Foundation Together Against Food Waste. 

For Information about the pilot and feasibility studies and the Rotterdam Unlocked challenge you can contact Babet van der Giesen, project manager: or Jorinde Wilbrink, corporate venturing consultant: