What is LabCycle?
"LabCycle is a company that specialises in the recycling of single-use plastic waste from the research sector.
"We use research to solve mysteries, make discoveries and cure diseases, but along this journey a huge amount of single-use plastic waste is generated. At the moment, this waste is sent to landfills or incineration due to concerns about health and safety, and the lack of appropriate recycling services.
"We've done surveys among researchers and they are keen to recycle this plastic if there's a service available – and that's where we come in.
"So what we are doing is to collect, decontaminate and recycle this waste, and turn it into a product that can be circulated back into the lab again. Basically, we're creating a closed-loop economy in the research sector."
Is it as a result of the chemicals used in labs that these plastics aren’t typically recycled?
"Yes: chemical use and biological contamination. However, a lot of it is because of a lack of awareness. People have this mindset that because it's a lab setting, everything is hazardous and contaminated, but actually a lot of it can be recycled upon appropriate decontamination."
What methods do you use to decontaminate this waste?
"This is a part of our trade secret, so I can't disclose too much! It's a combination of chemical and mechanical processes to make sure that any hazardous contaminants are removed. It’s been developed according to the standards of the NHS, and the health and safety protocols from different research institutes."
Where did you originally get the inspiration for LabCycle?
"I've been working as a PhD candidate and a researcher in the past few years, so I’ve seen first-hand how this single-use plastic has been an issue for a long time.
"Researchers are aware of this problem, and many of them have been calling for a change to this waste culture. However, a lot of entrepreneurs who don’t work in research aren't familiar with the issue. Working at that interface of being an entrepreneur and a researcher, I feel the responsibility and see the opportunity.
"In October 2019, I attended a SETsquared event called 3 Day Startup. There were five or six of us from each university, and I met my co-founders there. It was great to meet like-minded people and I’ve found it really positive to be involved with SETsquared."
What stage is the business currently at?
"We're running a non-commercial pilot at the moment. The main aim of this is to test out and optimise the collection and decontamination process at a larger scale.
"Another goal of the pilot is to help the University to implement its Laboratory Efficiency Assessment Framework as a part of the Green Labs scheme."
You received a £15,000 Foulathi Innovation Award in September 2020. What has the award helped you to do?
"£1,500 has gone towards my SETsquared membership, and the rest has been used as a stipend to allow me to work on the company alongside my PhD in the Centre for Sustainable and Circular Technologies. It’s a really big validation for our business and has provided us with a lot of confidence to work on this business and make it happen."
What are your next steps and when are you hoping to start trading fully?
"After we finish our current pilot in early 2022, we are going to launch our first commercial pilot. We've been in conversation with several research institutes, and we’re also planning to start our manufacturing process of consumables using the recycled plastic waste."
Is there anything you’d say to alumni who are considering supporting enterprise at Bath?
"The support from alumni is really important for young entrepreneurs like myself, because we are at the beginning of our careers and we need a lot of confidence, inspiration and validation. Funding is a really good way to give us that support! The money is important, but it's more about people saying, ‘Yes, we see the opportunity in this’. It makes you feel that you can make an impact."