TrueCircle scoops $5.5M to use AI to drive recycling efficiency

TrueCircle recycling efficiency

TrueCircle recycling efficiency

UK-based TrueCircle, a computer vision startup founded just last year, has nabbed $5.5 million in pre-seed funding in a bid to bring data-driven AI to the recycling industry to improve recovery rates and quality — with the overarching goal of transforming the economics of waste reuse to shrink demand for virgin materials.

So far the startup has its tech up and running in eight UK waste sorting facilities but is ramping up quickly, with more launches coming in Q2 — when it will be expanding internationally into Europe and the US.

It tells TechCrunch it’s shooting to have some 30-40 customers using its tech within 12 months’ time. 

The pre-seed is notable for its size. The round is led by Chris Sacca’s climate focused Lowercarbon Capital fund, with participation from Passion Capital, Giant Ventures and firstminute Capital, as well as the founders of companies including Revolut, Monzo, Infarm and Unity investing in a personal capacity.

Commenting on TrueCircle’s pre-seed raise in a statement, Lowercarbon Capital’s Clay Dumas, said: “Single-use plastic is a 300 million tonne scourge on our oceans and landfills that keeps the petrochemical industry in business. We backed TrueCircle because they’re harnessing technology and markets to build a solution that scales to the dimensions of the problem.”

TrueCircle’s two co-founders, Eamon Jubbawy and Rishi Stocker, are not new to the startup game. (Indeed, Jubbawy actually has two startups on the go at once right now; the other being an a16z-backed fintech called Sequence.)

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The pair, who originally met at school, tout a lot of relevant tech and business smarts they’re bringing to bear here: Including computer vision experience from Onfido, another of Jubbawy’s startups, where he built up a computer vision team focused on identity document verification and face matching (he left Onfido in summer 2020); and commercial experience from fintech startup Revolut, where Stocker was one of its first employees and spent four years running global partnerships. He also previously worked at FMCG giant Unilever, and says he’s no strange to the challenges of increasing packaging recycling rates.

Recycling isn’t the most glamorous topic ofc but low levels of efficiency in the waste processing industry are a pressing problem from multiple angles — not least when combined with humanity’s pressing need to radically shrink global consumption in order to cut emissions and avoid catastrophic climate change — meaning there are real, meaningful problems here that tech could help solve.

Problems that scale all over the globe, too. So the disruption potential — and revenue ‘opportunities’ — look huge.

Regulation is also driving a lot more attention to what’s passing down the conveyor belts, as lawmakers start to impose conditions on use of virgin materials for things like packaging — actively changing the economics of recycling.

Equally, widespread public anger over direct environmental impacts of discarded waste, like single-use plastic polluting the oceans and creating a risk to marine life, is creating energy for change.

Meanwhile AI-driven efficiency gains — and the digitalization of industrial processes more generally — are being specifically looked to to address climate change, including by policymakers in the Europe Union who are pushing a combined ‘green and digital’ transformation investment strategy for the bloc to try to hit net zero carbon emissions by 2050.


TrueCircle recycling efficiency

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