Circular economy

iNex: getting connected to tap into the ‘hidden gold’ in our waste

Claude Fouquet | Updated on January 08, 2018 Published on October 27, 2017

The recycling sector has been on the upswing in recent years, and is getting a serious boost thanks to the irruption of digital technology and social networks. The latter are sparking a revival of the traditional principles at the heart of the recycling industry, notably the idea that there’s a ‘goldmine’ to be found within our garbage, and that one man’s waste is another man’s treasure.

It is by fully embracing these ideas, and through seasoning them with a little high-tech sauce that the first European platform dedicated to circular economy between companies was born. Taking the name iNex, the platform aims to enable firms – via the Internet and an application – to either dispose of their unwanted items, or to facilitate their re-use or transformation. Put simply, this means that, like in nature, one person’s waste becomes another person’s resources. All the while creating benefits from the substantial savings made; both in terms of waste disposal and the cost of securing supplies of primary materials.

Ensuring a direct connection

Founded in 2014, but truly operational since 2015-2016, iNex ensures direct cooperation between “donors” of resources and their “takers”. For a subscription fee of between €350 to €1,000 (US$ 410 - US$1,180), the platform offers both parties the facilities they need to seek out synergies and set up logistics in terms of the transport or transformation of unwanted goods.

In practical terms, this initiative takes the form of an internet platform which enables users to find - thanks to a geopositioning system – potential industrial partners for the buying or selling of resources and to establish these synergies. A simple philosophy is used to assess potential cooperation between companies: which resources, with whom, and how?

With a lean workforce of 10 employees, the idea behind iNex is far from being a gimmick or just a way of reigniting enthusiasm on old concepts of recycling. iNex is currently active in France, Belgium and Spain, and has some 43,000 businesses listed. Proof that the start-up has found the response to a real need.

A textbook case in the South of France

One of the most ambitious implementations of this type of initiative is a project currently being developed in the Var plain, southeastern France. Around thirty businesses and local authorities are participating in the initiative, with the aim of creating a circular economy dynamic between these different local players.

Three projects are being set up there. The first involves the construction industry. The aim is to pool together the collection, sorting and treatment of inert waste (waste from construction operations) in the sector. The idea is to encourage re-use, as well as to stamp out dumping at unauthorized landfill sites.

The second concerns thermal efficiency in the Carros industrial zone. Its main focus is on fighting energy waste through the implementation of a hot water network, and by taking maximum advantage of the presence of a wood-fired cogeneration plant, which is currently under construction. In the long run, this should ensure the production of some 25,000 MWhth per year; to be offered at a price lower than the market rate.

The last project deals with organic material — more specifically with the collection, exchange and treatment of organic waste in the region (covering agriculture, forestry, agribusiness and the chemical industry). The goal is to ensure the treatment of nearly 6,000 tonnes of organic waste in this way.

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Published on October 27, 2017
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