Bower, the app that incentivises recycling and sustainable choices, has just picked up €4.1 million to replicate its Nordic success on an international level.
The round was led by blq Invest, a new investor in the company, together with existing investors, Almi Invest GreenTech, Verdane Foundation, Orkla Ventures and other major investors participating, taking the startup’s total raised to date to €5 million.
Co-founded in 2015 by sibling team Suwar Mert (CEO) and Berfin Roza Mert (COO), the Bower app directly rewards users with money or coupons when they recycle everyday waste items. Users can scan anything with a barcode, from milk cartons to crisp packets, and receive money, rewards when they take the packaging to a recycling point.
A major consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic has been the rise of a ‘plastic pandemic’ – the global increase in disposables and waste. A report by Defra, the UK Government’s environmental agency, found that during the pandemic, waste in England increased by over 881,000 tonnes, which also coincided with the lowest recycling rates since 2011. Despite this, a 2021 report from charity WRAP found recycling to be an established norm in the vast majority (90%) of UK households.
Bower wants to tackle this problem.
The app also educates the public on waste and plastic pollution, which is crucial considering that the same WRAP report found that over half of UK households throw recyclable items into general waste bins. Bower users can easily scan the barcodes of packaging to learn about its materials and recyclability, while also using the app’s in-built GPS to find their nearest recycling point.
Founding Partner of blq Invest, Kamjar Hajabdolahi commented: “Bower’s app is about promoting what we can all do, as individuals, to reduce our carbon footprint and live in a more sustainable way. This is a mission blq strongly believes in and so we’re excited to be part of Bower’s international expansion and look forward to supporting them as they expand globally. Meaningful data showing how people tend to recycle is crucial if we want to make sustainability scaleable for all, and bring brands along on that journey.”
The greentech app is free-to-use on both Android and iOS, and allows users to register any product and any recycling location that they take it to. The app’s bank of data is built through crowdsourcing, and users are constantly registering new barcodes and recycling points to help grow Bower’s reach. Rewards can be claimed in the form of points – which can be exchanged for coupons that provide users with discounts on future purchases – or redeemed as money. Users can deposit this money directly into their bank accounts, transfer it to a friend, or give it to charity. Over €12,300 has been donated to charity through Bower so far.
The past 12 months have seen exciting growth for the young company – becoming one of Sweden’s most popular apps. Its 300k users in the Nordic region alone recycle more than 1.4 million packages every month, and the platform has helped save over 1,000 tonnes (1 million kg) of CO2 to date. Identifying a strong global product-market fit, the investment will help with Bower’s global expansion plans, with the UK its next target market.
Further, the innovative startup already partners with big brands such as consumer giants Nestlé, L’Oréal and Unilever to help them reach their sustainability goals. Companies using Bower can follow their products’ life cycles through the app’s data, and understand consumer behaviour in terms of item types, and recycling times and locations.
This insight, alongside access to an extensive app userbase, allows companies large and small to improve their environmental efforts and make sure more items are recycled.
Suwar Mert, CEO and Co-founder of Bower commented: “We are really excited by this next chapter in the story of Bower. The investment will enable us to launch our platform internationally and help us achieve our mission of ridding the world of rubbish. The Bower community of recyclers are a brilliant example of how we can all do our part and how recycling can benefit the planet and people simultaneously.”