CAN YOU INTRODUCE YOURSELF AND TELL US ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND?
My name is Nicolas Cruaud, and I am a Polytechnique engineer doing a year of specialization at ISAE-SUPAERO. At X I took classes in mechanics and entrepreneurship, and at ISAE-SUPAERO I’m in the Design and Operation of Space Systems and Industrial Engineering.
NÉOLITHE – TELL US A LITTLE MORE ABOUT THE START-UP?
Néolithe transforms household waste into stone. We produce mineral aggregates for use in construction, notably road pavement sublayers and concrete, using all kinds of non-recyclable waste (household waste, industrial waste, etc.).
It was originally a family project that we developed with my father, my brother, and Clément Bénassy, a recent graduate from AgroParisTech. The idea came from my father, a stonemason who is also in charge for concrete formulation and who, when he observed the limestone he was cutting (the product of fossilization and the sedimentation of prehistoric waste), wondered if we could also "fossilize" our own waste, although a bit faster, to reduce the resulting pollution.
We then came up with the idea at a Start-up Weekend at École Polytechnique in March 2018, and we’ve been working on the project ever since.
WHAT ARE YOUR PROJECT’S ADVANTAGES IN TERMS OF SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT?
Our technology’s environmental impact is its main advantage. Fossilizing waste avoids having to incinerate or bury it, eliminating the resulting pollution. Compared to incineration, our process reduces the usual CO2 emissions by 80%. For all of France, this would represent a 5% reduction in CO2 emissions, all industries combined! That is twice as much as all the CO2 produced by air traffic. And since our goal is to implement our process on a very large scale, the cost of waste treatment by fossilization is the same as the cost of incineration – and you get ecology for the same price!
WHAT ARE YOUR PROJECTS AND PERSPECTIVES FOR NÉOLITHE?
Next September, we will inaugurate our first Fossilizer, a mobile waste treatment installation (in a shipping container). The goal is to give a demonstration of our technology and then to replicate it quickly throughout France and Europe with local authorities and industries. The Fossilizer is very agile and can be set up directly in a neighborhood, a small town or at a factory or worksite to treat waste on-site. We hope that this will enable us to relocate waste treatment closer to the production site so as to avoid waste transport which, on average, travels 100 km by truck before being buried in a landfill or incinerated.
ENGINEERING AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT: HOW RELEVANT IS IT TO GET THESE 2 SECTORS TO CONVERGE?
I think there are different kinds of sustainable development. We often hear about the little everyday gestures that we can all adopt to reduce our environmental impact. While necessary, I don’t think this is the most important lever for sustainable development. In my opinion, the main lever is technological and industrial. We must seek to do ecology on an industrial scale using replicable, economically viable models. That is why I think it is essential to have engineers working in sustainable development. We need to find real technical solutions capable of bringing about a revolution in polluting areas in order to reduce the environmental footprint of entire sectors.