Innovative Methods to Recover Production Waste

69 Submissions
$20,000 USD
Challenge under evaluation
  1. 24th July 2023

    Submission

  2. 9th September 2023

    Under evaluation

  3. 9th October 2023

    Verification in progress

  4. 25th November 2023

    Awarded

Challenge overview

OVERVIEW

Environmental pollution is a major global issue affecting biodiversity, ecosystems, and human health. Multiple economic activities contribute to this pollution; the textile industry, with its enormous amount of waste, is one of the major contributors.

To achieve sustainability and circularity goals, Iren Group invites Solvers to submit proposals with new ideas and concepts, existing mature technologies, or knowledge of providers that can be applied to the recovery of leather waste from manufacturing processes.

This is a Prize Challenge which requires a written proposal to be submitted. Awards will be contingent upon the theoretical evaluation of the proposal by Iren Group. For this Prize Challenge, Solvers are required to transfer non-exclusive rights to the Intellectual Property (IP) in their proposed solution, to be awarded.

 

ABOUT THE SEEKER & ELIGIBILITY

Iren is one of the largest and most dynamic multi-utility companies in Italy. It operates in many sectors including the generation and distribution of electricity, production of thermal energy for district heating, and gas. It also manages electric grids and provides integrated water services, as well as environmental and technological services.

Iren serves a multiregional area in the Northwest of Italy. It employs more than 10,000 people and provides a portfolio of services in the energy sector (2 million customers), integrated water sector (2.8 million customers), and environmental services (3.8 million citizens served). Iren is the largest operator in Italy in the production of thermal energy for district heating.

Iren operates mainly through its business units: Iren Energia, Ireti, Iren Mercato, and Iren Ambiente. The current Challenge is sponsored primarily by Iren Ambiente, the company dealing with integrated environmental services.

Employees of Iren Group and its subsidiaries (and members of their families) are not eligible to receive awards for this Challenge.

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THE CHALLENGE

Background

Environmental pollution is a major global issue affecting biodiversity, ecosystems, and human health. Among the economic activities that threaten environmental sustainability, the textile industry, with its enormous amount of waste, is one of the worst offenders.

Byproducts of the manufacturing, and in particular solid scraps, present an interesting challenge: recovery of this waste will make processes more efficient, present an interesting circular opportunity, and contribute to sustainability goals.

Iren Group’s business unit Iren Ambiente serves several businesses, being part of a textile district that collectively produces 7,000 tons of leather scraps a year (mostly identifiable by the European Waste Code 040109). Currently, this waste is sent to landfill. Not only does this represent a huge waste of potentially recoverable material, but also runs the risk of exceeding the limits for the disposal of waste.

Iren Group has set several ambitious goals aligned with Italy’s National Strategy for the Circular Economy, a broad set of policies focused on circular economy and eco-efficiency. One of these goals is to reduce the environmental impact of textile waste resulting from industrial processing.

Iren Group is interested in developing innovative technologies to recover materials from manufacturing, with a particular focus on applicability to leather waste resulting from industrial processing.

The Challenge

Iren Group is looking to reduce the environmental impact of textile waste resulting from industrial processing. To achieve this goal, Iren Group invites Solvers to submit a proposal that can help to recover leather waste. Leather waste in this case refers to the byproducts (especially solid scraps), discarded, or surplus material produced during the production or processing of leather goods. These types of scraps can vary in shape, weight, and quality (i.e. composed of leather only or with textile parts).

Waste products from the leather industry have uses suitable for the sustainability and circularity goals shared by Iren Group and the Italian national strategy. However, in order to increase the amount of leather waste recovered from the production and processing of leather goods, significant innovations need to be made.

By posting this Challenge, Iren Group is looking for Solvers’ proposals for innovative technologies to recover waste from textile manufacturing on the scale of 5,000-7,000 tons a year (the amount that will increase over time), with a specific focus on those that could be applied to leather waste.

The output coming from this recovery process should be reusable in the textile industry or even in other industries, for example in the automotive sector as seat upholstery.

Proposed solutions will be evaluated on efficiency of recovery, likely quality of leather recovered, environmental impact and resource needed, and the cost of the process.

Iren Group are open regarding the nature of the proposed technologies, as long as they allow us to achieve the above goals. However, we are specifically interested in technologies that could be applied to allow us to better recover tanned leather scraps.

 

SOLUTION REQUIREMENTS & ACCEPTANCE CRITERIA

Iren Group are open to new ideas and concepts, your existing mature technologies or your knowledge about existing technologies that could be adapted to this context as needed.

Solutions with Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) 1-9 are invited: from ideas about WHAT to do, concepts/solutions with HOW to achieve this, and proposals advising about existing mature technologies and/or WHO can provide these.

Proposed solutions leveraged from other industries with similar problems are encouraged.

Iren Group is primarily interested in submissions with the potential to meet the following requirements:

 

Must have:

  1. Efficiency of recovery – scope for an initial rate of leather waste recovery to be at least 40%, with clear upside potential.
  2. Likely quality of recovered leather waste – Iren is interested in two types of recovered products, differing in quality and destination.
    • High-quality material that can be reused for fashion industry production e.g. for shoes, accessories, or furniture.
    • Lower-quality material that can be used in construction, automotive sector as padding, or in other areas.
  3. Minimal resource, energy, and environmental impact – Iren is more interested in processes with minimal CO2 emissions, minimal use of virgin materials and chemicals, and 0 release of microplastics into water.
  4. Competitive cost – the cost of the process should be competitive enough so that these secondary raw materials collected can compete with virgin materials.

Nice to have:

  1. We’re also interested in the innovative pre-treatment process of leather waste. We expect that this pre-treatment process would facilitate re-entering into the production cycles (for example, by removing harmful fibers from the leather).

 

The Challenge award is contingent upon theoretical evaluation of your proposed solution by Iren Group and sufficient instructions to allow Iren Group to consider prototyping.

Submissions to this Challenge must be received by 11:59 PM (US Eastern Time) on September 08th, 2023. Late submissions will not be considered.
 

This is a Prize Challenge, which has the following features:

  • The best solution in this Prize Challenge has the opportunity to win the award of $20,000 USD if you meet all requirements, as solely determined by Iren Group. We encourage relevant submissions that do not fulfil all requirements, for which partial awards will be considered.
  • The Challenge award is contingent upon theoretical evaluation of your proposed solution by Iren Group.
  • Iren Group may also issue “Honorable Mention” recognitions for notable submissions that are not selected for monetary rewards.
  • For this Prize Challenge, Solvers are required to transfer non-exclusive rights to the Intellectual Property (IP) in their proposed solution, to be awarded.

For proposed solutions that are already commercially-available, Iren Group will not require any transfer of IP rights. Iren Group encourages the sharing of knowledge about existing technologies and is willing to consider a partial award for such proposals that merit their further pursuit.

 

YOUR SUBMISSION

The submitted proposals must be written in English and should include the following:

  1. An Abstract and optional Conclusion of the proposed solution.
  2. A Detailed Description of the proposed technology that meets the above Solution Requirements.
  3. A rationale as to why the Solver believes that the proposed technology will achieve the objectives of the Challenge. This rationale should address each of the Solution Requirements described in the Detailed Description and be supported with relevant examples.
  4. Any appropriate supporting data, drawings, etc.

Submissions to this Challenge must be received by 11:59 PM (US Eastern Time) on September 08th, 2023. Late submissions will not be considered.

 

Your submission will be evaluated by the evaluation team first reviewing the information and content you have submitted at the submission form, with attachments used as additional context to your form submission. Submissions relying solely on attachments will receive less attention from the evaluation team.

After the Challenge submission due date, the Seeker will complete the review process and make a decision with regards to the winning solution(s), according to the timeline in the Challenge header. All Solvers who submit a proposal will be notified about the status of their submission

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