Pendula digitalisiert die Abfallwirtschaft © Shutterstock

Pendula, based in Hamburg, upending recyling sector

Recyling goes digital thanks to start-up's time and money-saving software

Pendula began as a start-up off the coast of New Zealand where Gary Lewis, an engineer, was managing the recycling process aboard container and cruise ships. In February 2015, he received an order to dump a huge copper engine block into the ocean. Faced with a dilemma, he thought twice before acting. The engine block would definitely not disintegrate on the ocean floor and would certainly cause lasting damage to the environment. Yet, the block had great material value. Then, Lewis hit on the idea of creating an online market for recyclable materials allowing the producer to sell them to an interested buyer.

Presentation at “Startup Weekend Hamburg”

Some months later and still driven by his business idea, the New Zealander found himself half way around the world in Hamburg. There, he presented his concept at the 2015 Startup Weekend. Two like-minded fellows were quickly found and together they launched Pendula. Named after a pendulum that swings freely back and forth, Pendula also symbolises the cycle of waste management and a beautiful deciduous tree. Although Pendula’s early phase may sound adventurous, the entrepreneurs suffered their first setback a few months later.

Up to 60,000 daily faxes in recycling sector

During their first business year, the trio’s efforts at convincing waste producers of their online market fell mostly on deaf ears. Few companies took any interest in recycling their waste and merely wanted swift and affordable waste disposal. Although Pendula was far from successful in that first year, the team gained a wealth of experience. To their consternation, they soon noticed the lack of digitalisation in the communication and work processes between waste producers and recycling companies. At the time, one of their pilot partners was sending his customer up to 60, 000 faxes daily, said Felix Heinricy, Head of Sales at Pendula.

As a result, software that had originally been designed for the online market was reinvented for the new business model and the focus switched to Pendula’s app. Now, data about container filling levels, waste collectors, transport tracking previously done by recycling companies at great effort, can be gleaned and analysed in seconds and passed on. This precision creates huge new potential for optimising processes such as transport routes.

Test of app linked to intelligent container

Lewis began launching the new app project with Pascal Alich (CTO). Felix Heinricy joined in early 2017. Several pilot projects are presently ongoing including one with Veolia recycling where the Pendula app has been in use since February. Some of Veolia’s clients are also testing the app. Although Veolia had its own in-house software, it took several days to explain the functions to a waste producer, said Heinricy. This is where Pendula’s easy to use, intuitive app comes in – no training needed. Customers can use it immediately. “That’s our unique selling point,” Heinricy pointed out.

During the test phase with Veolia, the app will be linked to intelligent sensors and smart containers. The waste producer then gets automatic data about a container’s filling levels. A mere confirmation follows and then a recycling company can pick it up.

Software developers needed

Pendula’s founders are currently in talks with potential partners and investors including German recycling firms and large clients all over Europe. And the need for personnel is rising. The team of five presently work in Mindspace’s co-working offices in downtown Hamburg. Heinricy stressed: “Our team of developers is in urgent need of reinforcements.” And the trio have a clear vision of their expanded network. Hopes of bringing some of Germany’s biggest recycling aboard this year are high. The team’s long-term goal is to position Pendulum not only in the B2B sector, but in the end consumer market as well. Although still a fledgling, this ambitious company is aiming even higher. Heinricy said: “We want to create a completely digitalised, sustainable recycling sector as quickly as possible.” These energetic founders are certainly not shying away from a challenge.

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