by Bennett Davis
Veles, a New York start-up, is making a household cleaner from garbage.
The company collects food waste, feeds it into a biorefinery, and extracts the ingredients that make up its namesake cleaner: water; acetic acid (related to vinegar); lactic acid (good for killing germs and breaking things down); and alcohol.
Veles then adds a dash of fragrance and markets the result in a recyclable aluminum bottle.
Co-founder Amanda Weeks has persuaded local trash and wastewater haulers to bring their loads to her biorefinery instead of a landfill farther away, saving the haulers money and time.
The cleaner then sold in an aluminum bottle but Weeks prefers that her customers refill it instead. She’s working with nearby retailers to install tanks where consumers can pump their own.
Because it’s early days, a 16-ounce bottle of Veles costs $20 but Weeks says the price will fall as the company scales up.
She says that if every U.S. household used a bottle of Veles every month, 175 million gallons of water a year would stay out of the waste stream.
But her larger aim is to see biorefineries making similar products in every population center and Veles already has opened a demonstration plant in New Jersey. Her longer-term goal is to foster biorefineries selling recycled waste to makers of consumer products and chemicals, helping to close the loop on the circular economy.
TRENDPOST: More entrepreneurs, especially those under age 40, see business as a way to carry out social missions, particularly environmental purposes. Two-thirds of global consumers, including 73 percent of Millennials, say they’re willing to spend more money for a product that helps achieve environmental goals.
Businesses with a clear social purpose or goal increasingly will outcompete those that don’t.

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