Edinburgh graduate aids green revolution in construction industry
Learn about the story of Edinburgh graduate Nicolás Behar, and his award winning start-up to recycle construction waste.
In 2017, University of Edinburgh graduate Nicolás Behar set up an innovative start-up to recycle construction waste. His company, RECYLINK, recently won first prize in the ‘technology for sustainability’ category at Los Premios LatinoAmerica Verde –the ‘Sustainability Oscars’ of Latin America.
Here, Nicolás tells his story of creating this innovative, sustainable company.
After my postgraduate studies at the University of Edinburgh, I returned to Chile and started to develop a business idea with a friend from university, Rodrigo Galleguillos. Together we wanted to find a solution to tackle the construction waste issue in Chile. That idea became our company, RECYLINK. Within 6 months of our launch we had recycled over 50 tons of construction waste, saving over 100 tons of CO2 from the environment.
During my undergraduate studies as a construction engineer in Chile I acquired strong technical and administrative knowledge, but throughout my studies I’d noticed that environmental impact or waste management in the construction sector was never discussed or debated. After working for 5 years as an engineer, I decided I wanted to change my career path, to do something more meaningful for the world and for myself. That’s why I applied for the MSc programme in Environment and Development. During my time at The University of Edinburgh, my course and fellow students taught me so much. The experience really helped to improve my critical thinking.
Tackling a worldwide environmental issue
Critical thinking was important to development of the company because of the scale of the problem. Construction waste represents 34% of all the waste generated in Chile. Chile’s levels are representational of global figures with the construction industry worldwide responsible for around the same percentage of waste generated.
To find a solution to this issue my we learned from apps that connect supply and demand, like Uber and Airbnb, but RECYLINK goes further than simply connecting construction businesses with services to remove waste. The revolutionary concept was the environmental perspective of the business, which highlighted the negative impact of construction waste. This is a massive worldwide problem which we thought had been in the shadows for too long, and putting a spotlight on the issue was central to our business plan. Our product connects the construction companies with the entire recycling market, so we help companies easily and quickly find a market that already exists, making a link between two worlds that was previously missing.
Award winning company
When RECYLINK was selected as a finalist at Los Premios LatinoAmerica Verde in August 2018, the number of followers on our social media went through the roof. This event takes place in Ecuador and it’s the biggest and most important of its kind on our side of the world. Winning the first prize in the "technology for sustainability" category gave us attention from international organizations and national media in Chile. The recognition of our work was an extra boost to our start-up and the achievement of winning affirmed for us the sense that we are going in the right direction.
The prize is a week-long boot camp with US company AT&T, the world's largest telecommunications company, which we’ll be doing in early 2019. We hope this experience will help improve our technological solution and increase our positive environmental impact, so we couldn’t be happier with the results.
Since returning to Chile, I still feel strongly connected to Edinburgh. I’m in contact with the Chilean Alumni Society and the Regional Centre based in Santiago, who have connected me with the University of Edinburgh’s activities, academic contacts and connections with other local alumni. As a result, I’ve been able to meet people involved in environmental initiatives in Chile, and be in conversation with people from the University of Edinburgh who are studying construction environmental impact. These contacts provide a great opportunity to discuss different ideas and solutions to this issue I feel so strongly about.