The Circularity Challenge

Greentown Labs Circularity Challenge

The Greentown Labs Circularity Challenge is a six-month accelerator program for start-ups developed in partnership with BASF, one of the world’s leading chemical companies. The program intends to advance innovative ideas to disrupt the plastics, energy storage and recycling value chains to enable a circular economy.

Believing that disruptive solutions for circular economy must be jointly addressed along the value chain, this program is supported by Stanley Black & Decker, a leading global diversified industrial and member of BASF’s value chain that shares the vision for a more sustainable future.

Why a Circularity Challenge? 

Circular economy is much more than waste management. The aim is to close cycles and use products and resources in the best way possible across the entire value chain. The circular economy model has been gaining ground in politics, industry and society over the last years. Behind this idea is a shift away from the linear model of “take-make-dispose" to a system of closed loops powered by renewable energy. The chemical industry and its innovations can lead the way in this change. BASF is already applying circular economy in a number of ways.


Circular economy thinking, however, cannot be restricted to a company’s own operations. We are looking for start-ups, with a proof of concept solution, that creatively enable circularity for plastics or battery materials or provide digital tools for circularity in general.

How will you be rewarded? 

Selected Circularity Challenge awardee(s) are eligible for the following awards and benefits:

  • Acceptance into Greentown Launch, a 6-month accelerator program for start-ups at Greentown Labs
  • Partnership and/or potential investment from BASF by the end of the program
  • Access to select BASF testing capabilities, global technical facilities and expertise
  • Exclusive access to the Greentown Labs and BASF networks 
  • $25,000 in non-dilutive grant funding
  • Desk space at the Greentown Labs Global Center for Cleantech Innovation
  • Potential access to BASF-sponsored bench in Greentown’s wet lab
  • Potential for joint ISO-standardized eco-efficiency analysis with BASF
  • Opportunity to connect with multiple stakeholders across industries, including BASF customer and special program affiliate Stanley Black & Decker.

How does it work?


To push the limits of recycling, the program seeks innovative solutions to close loops in the plastics value chain, such as:

  • Advanced recycling technologies 
    • for currently non-recyclable polymeric materials (including, but not limited to PETG, PVC, EPS)
    • for composite materials that cannot be separated and recycled today (e.g. Polyethylene/Aluminum laminates, or others) 
    • mitigating contamination and degradation to ensure high quality recyclates (odor control, color removal, new additives such as compatibilizers or chain extenders to increase the performance of recycled plastics, ideally into the performance range of virgin materials) 
    • boosted by tracer technologies for sorting efficiency 
  • Novel designs 
    • of composites that can be readily separated (debonding on demand)  
    • replacing complex composites with single material solutions for better recyclability, while maintaining performance (e.g. replacement of composite barrier layers, replacement of black light protection layers in milk bottles) 
    • leveraging bio-degradable building blocks or additives 
  • Energy-efficient processes for depolymerization (including enzymes), pyrolysis or gasification to recover building blocks


To increase the circularity of batteries and minimize wasted battery capacity and raw materials we are looking for technologies that:

  • Improve the collection of batteries/cells after initial use through innovative and new business models 
  • Improve how batteries/cells are analyzed, to understand charge state and determine whether they should be reused, reconditioned, or recycled 
  • Revive a dead cell or battery without resorting to disassembly for recycling 
  • Enable direct recycling of battery materials (without leaching, pyrometallurgy etc.)  
  • Optimize recycling of valuable metals such as cobalt, nickel, lithium, etc. 
  • Create new batteries that can be reused, repurposed or recycled more often and more cost effectively

Digital Tools

To implement and manage new circularity business models and track progress in sustainability we are looking for: 

  • Digital platforms that enable new business models in circular economy 
  • Tools that help simulate and predict recyclability and guide designs 
  • Technologies that support tracking and reporting of value streams 
  • Approaches to make battery components or plastic parts smarter by incorporating IoT technologies for lifecycle management (e.g. to enable battery components or plastic parts to report status and reusability or recycling options) 
  • Methods that can detect possible contamination and detrimental ingredients in materials such as plastics or battery components, that are fed back into the loop

  • Define your solution and the problem it addresses as clearly as possible 
  • Disclose the status of any intellectual property (IP) relevant to your submission. Do not submit confidential information in the application process. Should you be selected as an awardee, your IP will be fully protected throughout the process
  • If your application progresses through the selection process, you must be available for Skype interviews and in-person interviews after the close of the Round 1 application deadline

Submit your completed application by September 8, 2019, 11:59 p.m. EDT

All events will be held at Greentown Labs in Somerville, MA

  • Program Kickoff & Judging Event: September 30, 2019
  • Workshop 1: October 22-23, 2019
  • Workshop 2: November 12-13, 2019
  • Workshop 3: December 4-5, 2019
  • Final Showcase: January 30, 2020

All dates subject to change

About Greentown Labs 

Greentown Labs is a community of bold, passionate entrepreneurs creating solutions for today’s biggest environmental and climate challenges. Located in Somerville, Mass., and founded in 2011, the Greentown Labs Global Center for Cleantech Innovation is the largest cleantech incubator in North America, operating a 100,000 sq. ft. campus comprised of prototyping and wet lab space, shared office space, a machine shop, electronics lab, and a curated suite of programs and resources. Greentown Labs is home to more than 90 startups and has supported more than 210 since its inception. These startups collectively employ more than 2,800 people and have raised more than $650 million in funding. The incubators’ mission is to provide entrepreneurs with the community, resources, and space they need to thrive. For more information, please visit or on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.


About Greentown Launch  

Greentown Launch is a six-month, industry specific, structured acceleration program designed to drive deals between entrepreneurs and corporate partners. Over the last three years, Greentown Labs has run three Greentown Launch programs that have resulted in investment and partnership deals for over 65% of startup participants and our corporate sponsors. We facilitate these deals through over 80 hours of intensive business training, hands on mentorship from industry experts and a unique model of startup and corporate relationship building. Beyond our unique partnership curation program, startups accepted into this program gain the ability to access our network of over 150 investors and over 40 corporate partners while gaining access to state-of-the-art lab, business and software tools including SOLIDWORKS, Altium, a machine shop, electronics equipment, wet lab, legal and marketing support. 

The program is hosted at Greentown Labs’ Global Center for Cleantech Innovation, one of the world’s most renowned energy innovation hubs. Entrepreneurs selected for this program will receive paid desk space at Greentown Labs for the duration of the six month program. 


About BASF  

BASF Corporation, headquartered in Florham Park, New Jersey, is the North American affiliate of BASF SE, Ludwigshafen, Germany. BASF has more than 20,000 employees in North America and had sales of $19.7 billion in 2018. For more information about BASF’s North American operations, visit

At BASF, we create chemistry for a sustainable future. We combine economic success with environmental protection and social responsibility. The approximately 122,000 employees in the BASF Group work on contributing to the success of our customers in nearly all sectors and almost every country in the world. Our portfolio is organized into six segments: Chemicals, Materials, Industrial Solutions, Surface Technologies, Nutrition & Care and Agricultural Solutions. BASF generated sales of around €63 billion in 2018. BASF shares are traded on the stock exchange in Frankfurt (BAS) and as American Depositary Receipts (BASFY) in the U.S. Further information at


About Stanley Black & Decker 

Stanley Black & Decker is a $14 billion revenue, $20+ billion market capitalization, purpose-driven industrial organization. Stanley Black & Decker has 60,000 employees in more than 60 countries and operates the world's largest tools and storage business, the world's second largest commercial electronic security company, a leading engineered fastening business as well as Oil & Gas and Infrastructure businesses. The company's iconic brands include BLACK+DECKER, Bostitch, CRAFTSMAN, DEWALT, FACOM, Irwin, Lenox, Porter Cable and Stanley. Stanley Black & Decker is a company for the makers and innovators, the craftsmen and the caregivers, and those doing the hard work to make the world a better place. Learn more at