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Google launches accelerator to support transition to circular economy

Google on Tuesday said it is starting its first accelerator for startups and non-profit organisations in Asia Pacific and North America to support creation of a circular economy.

Circular economy is a model of production and consumption that involves sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling of existing materials and products as long as possible. It aims to tackle global challenges such as climate change, biodiversity loss, waste, and pollution by emphasising design-based implementation of three base principles of the model – elimination of waste and pollution, circulation of products and materials, and regeneration of nature.

The new accelerator programme is for startups and non-profits that use technology to solve circularity challenges including reuse, refill, recycling, composting, fashion, food, safe and circular materials, and the built environment, Google said.

It opened applications for the 10-week programme on Tuesday. Applications can be submitted till November 14, and the programme will commence in February 2023.

In 2022, global demand for resources is projected to be 1.75 times what the earth’s ecosystems can regenerate in a year, the technology giant said.

Most of the resources that we extract and use eventually become waste, adding to the more than two billion tonnes of solid waste created each year, it added.

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“While this linear economic model has led to a great deal of progress for humanity in a short time, it has also created environmental harm, injustice, and disparities – particularly for lower-income and under-resourced communities that are located near industrial areas where pollution is more prevalent,” Thye Yeow Bok, head of startup ecosystem, Southeast Asia, at Google, said in a blog.

He said Asia Pacific is a good starting point to innovate and create circular economy solutions as it is the world’s most vulnerable region to climate change’s impact.

As much as 90% of all river-borne plastic in the ocean comes from just ten rivers, eight of which are in Asia Pacific. And by 2040, Asia is expected to drive 40% of the world’s consumption, the company said.

The concept of circular economy has been gaining popularity since it will help minimise emissions and consumption of raw materials, open up new market prospects, increase sustainability of consumption, and improve resource efficiency. In the process, it is being viewed as means of combating global warming as well as a facilitator of long-term growth.

“To create a circular economy that can be safer, sustainable, and more equitable for everyone, we need to rebuild our relationship with physical resources and how we make, process, use, and recycle them,” Bok said in his blogpost.

Against this backdrop, he said there is a flourishing startup and innovation ecosystem in Asia Pacific, representing the opportunity to create original and helpful products in the circular economy space.

“There has also been an increase in impact investing in recent years, signalling that the region’s investors recognise the need to back sustainability solutions,” Bok said.

The accelerator offers ten weeks of virtual programming, which includes mentoring and technical support from Google engineers and external experts through a mix of one-to-one and one-to-many learning sessions. Participants will also be assigned a dedicated success manager for even more support that is specific to their organisation.

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