Entrepreneurs Compete To Deliver New Recycling Solutions

Dave Flessner
Chattanooga Times Free Press, Tenn.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) As Dave Flessener reports, “During Chattanooga’s Startup Week, the traditional sales pitch is reversed and entrepreneurs are pitched a problem to solve.”


Entrepreneurs seeking money and sales to grow their businesses often pitch their ideas and products to investors and customers who might like to buy or invest in their products or services.

But during Chattanooga’s Startup Week, the traditional sales pitch is reversed and entrepreneurs are pitched a problem to solve. Next month during Startup Week, the city of Chattanooga is making the reverse pitch to help find solutions to its ongoing challenge of recycling wastes.

“Recycling and waste management processes are overdue for innovation,” said Christine DiPietro, director of programs for CO.LAB, the small business accelerator that coordinates Chattanooga’s Startup Week. “This is a great opportunity to test ideas and see what works in our city.”

Chattanooga was forced to temporarily suspend its curbside recycling program in late July due to a shortage of drivers.

To address the driver shortage, Mayor Tim Kelly included $30 million in pay increases for city employees in the city budget that City Council adopted Tuesday, boosting the pay for collection drivers by more than 40%. The city plans to fill its remaining driver vacancies and resume regular recycling pickup in October.

In the meantime, city officials are eager to find ways to improve the city’s recycling processes to make them more efficient and effective, including working with entrepreneurs for innovative solutions. Working with CO.LAB, the city is seeking ideas to test out better recycling approaches through the Sustainability and Recycling Pitch and Pilot Competition next month.

“I am so excited that the City of Chattanooga will be partnering with CO.LAB during Startup Week Chattanooga to invite local entrepreneurs and the broader public to share their ideas and innovations to ensure our city is on a path to becoming a zero-waste community.,” Mayor Tim Kelly said in an announcement of the reverse pitch competition. “I count myself as fortunate to be mayor of a city where people care deeply about limiting waste and litter.”

But even with a commitment to sustainability, DiPietro said recycling programs in most cities are antiquated and are often build upon supply chains for plastic, glass and other materials that no longer exist after China quit importing most plastic wastes, forcing many materials to simply be dumped into the landfill.

To identify new ways to improve recycling, composting and the waste stream, the city has allocated $23,065 for CO.LAB to work with entrepreneurs to help develop and test pilot programs that might improve recycling and limit the amount of landfill waste.

DiPietro said she expects to fund and work with two pilot programs with $3,500 grants for each project and two other pilot programs with a $5,000 budget for each idea.

Businesses with ideas on how to use technology, infrastructure, education and other ways to boost recycling and reduce landfill wastes are invited to submit their ideas by Monday, Oct. 3 to be eligible to compete for funding at a pitch event scheduled during Startup Week for Tuesday, Oct. 19 at noon.

A panel of judges will select the four best ideas to help address the recycling and waste challenges of the city, based upon ways to limit what goes into the landfill, what improves the efficiency and effectiveness of recycling programs, what promotes more composting and waste reuse and what may improve consumer education about effective ways to recycle and reduce wastes.

Anyone with an idea can email a proposal to

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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