In the European Union, the demolition and construction sector creates over one-third of waste. This waste comprises a diverse range of materials, such as concrete, bricks, wood, glass, metals, and plastics. When combined with the materials excavated during primary resource extraction activities, the total contribution escalates to 60%. Within this category, 30% of the waste is composed of dusty fractions of mineral and biogenic origin, which are usually unsuitable for further use. ParaStruct, an Austrian start-up addresses this problem with a circular economy approach. We spoke with Stefan Watzke, responsible for Business Development and Sustainability at ParaStruct, who shared insights into this challenge and the solution that their start-up has.
“In Austria, a huge amount of demolition waste is already going to recycling. However, hills of powdery waste are left behind or put to the landfills. It’s a huge cost, not sustainable, and a problem because it occupies space and evermore virgin resources are extracted”, explains Watzke. He also mentions that the fine powder is perfect for ParaStruct’s circular advanced manufacturing technology. Around 70% of demolition waste is recycled within the European Union, however, most of it is downcycled. This means that the recycled material results in lower quality and functionality than the original. Although the amount is encouraging, ParaStruct aims to increase that percentage by incorporating 70-90% of secondary resources in the first place, particularly by focusing on a usually left-behind waste: the fine powder fraction.
Why is ParaStruct’s solution ideal for a circular economy?
Their approach goes far away from only handling the waste, but reinventing it. Using 3D printing and a circular binding material, they can convert the powder into valuable construction materials, EcoMoulds (cavities, formwork) for various industries and for diverse applications. “All produced with up to 90% secondary material, from very lightweight to high densities”. Waste valorization is key in achieving a circular economy and its goal is to extract the maximum value from waste materials, which in turn also conserves natural resources and reduces environmental pollution.
“In principle, our solution is cost-effective and near to fully automatized so we can transform hills of waste into high-value products”. The full system solution and the outcomes produced can vary from customer to customer, depending on the materials. With their step-by-step process, they first analyze waste streams to deliver business opportunities then and customise the adequate valorization solution. Seeing themselves as partners, they also foster sales channels and participate in commercialization activities, fostering regional value-creation networks with their industrial customers. For example, “from circular moulds for the production of diverse components, to formwork for construction or diverse filling materials for ceilings, for example”, shares Stefan.
Georg Breitenberger founded ParaStruct in 2021. He has decades of experience in the construction sector, industrial process development, and innovation management. Now, they are a highly ambitious team of 6 people from around the Alps with diverse backgrounds and hands-on know-how. The start-up is in the seed phase, proving its solutions in the market and calling upon like-minded investors and partners to join them in reshaping our world with circular, sustainable materials. They are open to collaboration with industrial customers interested in ParaStruct’s unique competitive edge and circular value creation. While the immediate goal is to penetrate the DACH (Germany, Austria, and Switzerland) market—owing to its robust circular economy strategy and a significant share of EU’s GDP—ParaStruct’s ambitions are not limited by geography. They are open to negotiations across Europe, ready to bring their innovative solutions to the global stage.