Converting Underutilized Resources Into High Value-Added Products In Puerto Rico


Puerto Rico, like most islands across the globe, has an issue with waste. Over 4 million tons are produced per year and only 9-14% of that is recycled,  compared to the average recycling rate in the U.S. of 32%. Lack of access to curbside recycling and inconsistent services mean that recyclable materials often don’t make it into the system. Additionally, due to the prevalence and availability of inexpensive dumping at formal and informal landfills, there is little incentive for communities to pursue recycling systems further. This has resulted in many local landfills operating in an unsanitary manner or facing closure orders from the US Environmental Protection Agency. 

Puerto Rico also relies heavily on imports, which account for 85% of the food consumed on the island, for example. This combination leads to a lot of waste being brought to the island without good mechanisms for disposal or reuse of resources. Many resources could be repurposed and used for new products, contributing to the circular economy and reducing the reliance on raw materials. The creation of circular manufacturing models in Puerto Rico could reduce the reliance on import of new products, an expensive endeavor that creates high prices and long wait times for new items. 

Our Thesis

Opportunity Spaces

Tires to High Value Commodities

Strengthening the island’s existing tire recycling ecosystem by enabling the production of high value commodities (e.g. recovered carbon black (RCB), oils, downstream products using RCB such as building materials, water filtration systems, creative applications, etc). Technologies of interest should work within the island’s generation of 18,000 tires per day while remaining economically viable.

Increasing the Viability of On-Island Plastics Recycling

  • Exploring modular technology solutions for an economically feasible process for the on-island conversion of waste plastics into new products or high value commodities such as fuels and hydrogen. Technologies that can accommodate relatively low volumes of plastics generation and collection but allow for conversion into a high value product or commodity will be prioritized.
  • Innovative approaches for dynamically estimating and tracking waste generation and disposal (with a focus on plastic) in an environment with limited data availability. Approaches of interest include computer vision, AI/automated waste modeling and analytics, and accountability dashboards, among others.

Sargassum Valorization

This project seeks to test the potential of creating a new value chain for sargassum in Puerto Rico by capitalizing on the increased sargassum accumulation in the last decade. Pilots can address one or more stages in the value chain, including collection, bio-refinement, and productization. Solutions should seek to create the pathway for an integrated sargassum value-chain.

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Are you building technology, systems, or services that address these challenges?

Who should apply?

We seek to pilot with startups at any stage working on impact-driven advancements in waste diversion within and adjacent to the identified opportunity spaces. If you are developing a novel technology, product, or service within one of these areas, learn more and apply today.

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Why This
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About the Partner(s)

InvestPR is a 501(c)3 nonprofit public-private partnership that works to elevate Puerto Rico as a world-class business destination. Their mission is to promote Puerto Rico as a competitive investment jurisdiction to attract new business and capital investment to the island. InvestPR serves as a transformational and results-oriented accelerator of economic development in Puerto Rico.

Pilot Sites


Why Newlab

Investment & Exposure

  • Grant funding pool divided among participating companies to support pilot development and offset associated costs; no equity taken.

Pilot Design Support

  • Structured strategy and support from Newlab to advance your pilot concept and solicit feedback and input from key stakeholders to enable customer discovery, uncover technology requirements, meet compliance requirements and launch pilot projects.
  • Ongoing support from the Newlab team, Mercado Libre and a network of relevant stakeholders to navigate the integration of technologies that advance the future of low carbon logistics.
  • The project team will work closely with companies to determine appropriate sites, facilities, permits and timeframes for pilot projects in Latin America. We will work with startups to design pilot projects in detail and connect teams to potential partners based on commercialization progress, business model and go-to-market strategy.
  • Applicants will benefit from the project teams’ deep industry knowledge. Our team has mobility experience and local insight to provide intelligence around operational scenarios and potential for technology scale-up.

Community Membership & Newlab Infrastructure

  • Access to the Newlab flagship location in Brooklyn, NY and our new location in Detroit, MI with over $5M in on-site prototyping resources and product realization teams; over 300,000 sq ft industrial work space, and peer community of 250+ companies scaling transformative technology.
  • Engagement with leading industry, venture, and academic experts through curated programming and office hours.
  • Access to testbed infrastructure across Newlab pilot locations including the 300-acre Brooklyn Navy Yard, Detroit’s Michigan Central Campus, Uruguay and more.

Why Pilot in Puerto Rico

  • Ongoing support from the Newlab team, Invest Puerto Rico and a network of relevant stakeholders to navigate the integration of technologies to drive new solutions advancing the future of waste diversion services and waste-derived products.
  • Access to appropriate sites, facilities, feedstock and other resources in Puerto Rico with support on pilot design, introductions to stakeholders and navigation of permitting processes.
  • Background research on the materials and waste management landscape and local markets in Puerto Rico, industry knowledge and expert advisors.
  • Strategic location for future growth in Puerto Rico as a gateway to mainland U.S., Europe and Latin America with a legacy in the manufacturing industry, a highly skilled workforce, excellent infrastructure, and competitive tax incentives


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