For reducing construction waste by making it easier to salvage materials
One person’s trash is another person’s treasure, as the saying goes. So Lucile Hamon decided to apply that same philosophy to the French construction industry.
Every commercial upgrade or renovation leaves behind massive amounts of perfectly good materials—from flooring to doorknobs, sinks to sconces—that get sent straight to the landfill. The construction industry bears the dubious distinction of being France’s leading producer of waste, accounting for more than 247 million tons each year. Hamon saw not just a waste of materials, but lots of money getting thrown out, too.
In 2017, fresh from earning her master’s degree in entrepreneurship from HEC Paris, Hamon started Backacia, an online marketplace for construction companies to list, buy and sell used building materials. The first of its kind in France, Backacia saves buyers money on materials they need for construction projects, puts money back into the pockets of sellers who would otherwise get nothing for their waste and keeps tons of material out of the trash while reducing demand for new products. The company also offers diagnostics and analyses to show the financial and environmental impact of reuse for each operation and to trace all materials sold.
With support from HEC’s startup incubator and accelerator Impulse Partners, Backacia is proving to be a powerful voice for change in how construction projects are sourced. The company recovered materials from a handful of building sites in its first year and by 2021, that number had grown to 600.
Those numbers reflect an increasing interest in building up the circular economy, a central tenet of the European Green Deal. The European Commission’s action plan aims to reduce waste, make sustainable products the norm in the EU and "make circularity work for people, regions and cities."
And Hamon, a self-described enthusiastic entrepreneur who says she loves to make an impact environmentally, socially and fiscally, is ready for action: "I believe that innovation and disruption are key ways to change both the world and economy."