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The world’s finest athletes will obtain their gold medals on the Paris Olympic and Paralympic Video games this summer time whereas standing on trash. Recycled meals containers, to be actual.

The silver-colored Olympic podiums, at the moment being raised throughout France, have been made in a small manufacturing unit on the outskirts of Paris by a start-up referred to as Le Pavé utilizing 100% recycled plastic. It’s a primary for any Olympic Video games.

“There may be an overabundance of plastic that’s harming the surroundings, however which additionally has confirmed financial potential if it may be repurposed,” mentioned Maurius Hamelot, 29, a co-founder of Le Pavé, as he darted round his plant, a transformed former metal foundry.

That’s not all: Le Pavé additionally made 11,000 bleacher seats for 2 close by sports activities arenas that have been constructed for the Video games — all manufactured from used shampoo bottles and hundreds of thousands of multicolored bottle caps.

Only a few years in the past, the corporate had solely three workers. However an sudden name from Olympic organizers led to a beefy contract, and the corporate has expanded to a employees of 34 and opened two factories. Within the course of, it has turn out to be a poster little one for the Paris Olympic committee, which has pledged to make these Olympic Video games the greenest in historical past.

Le Pavé is a part of an more and more dynamic start-up tradition that has been rising in France, seeded by formidable insurance policies from President Emmanuel Macron’s authorities to rework the financial system with new industries specializing in clear expertise and a inexperienced transition.

“It was once thought of a start-up for those who simply developed software program,” mentioned Jim Pasquet, 31, Le Pavé’s different co-founder. “We’re a brand new sort of commercial start-up, targeted on environmental wants, and our objective is to turn out to be a European chief.”

Mr. Hamelot had already been working to transform plastic waste collected in Parisian neighborhoods into high-quality parts for the constructing sector. As an structure pupil on the College of Versailles, he had set his sights on the development business, one of many largest sources of carbon emissions.

“The 2 issues widespread in building are waste and trash, all over the place on the planet,” he mentioned. “How do you reinvent the supplies used to construct and that gained’t hurt the surroundings?”

Mr. Hamelot purchased a used pizza oven and started to experiment with melting discarded plastic from digital detritus, together with previous espresso makers and phone handsets that he chopped up in a blender. In 2018, he and Mr. Pasquet, associates since childhood, created Le Pavé and gained a collection of innovation competitions that bought them into La Ruche, an incubator in Paris with a give attention to social entrepreneurship, digital expertise and crafts and tradition, the place they raised modest funding.

By 2019, that they had patented a thermal compression molding expertise to be used within the constructing sector. Quickly after, Mr. Hamelot bought a name from Solideo, the French firm overseeing infrastructure for the 2024 Video games, together with a brand new Olympic Village within the northern suburbs of Seine-Saint-Denis that was designed to advertise zero waste.

The organizers, who have been searching for to slash planet-warming emissions in half in contrast with earlier Video games, requested if they might be capable of produce 11,000 chairs for a brand new Olympic Aquatic Heart being constructed to host swimming, and for the brand new Adidas Enviornment, which might maintain gymnastics and badminton competitions.

“It was an unbelievable alternative,” Mr. Pasquet mentioned.

Seeded with cash from BPI, a French state funding financial institution that focuses on start-ups, they settled into an deserted metal manufacturing unit in Aubervilliers, a low-income suburb of Paris close to many Olympic venues.

Mr. Hamelot and Mr. Pasquet labored with 50 native recycling corporations to assemble used plastic, experimenting with dozens of prototypes and stress testing earlier than inking a remaining cope with Solideo in 2022 for the stadium chairs.

Armed with a philosophy that asserts working regionally can have an enormous social affect, they employed workers from Seine-Saint-Denis, together with individuals who had been on long-term unemployment, in addition to an asylum seeker and a former prisoner anticipating a contemporary begin.

The corporate added an academic dimension, asking a nongovernmental group, Lemon Tree, to incorporate 50 elementary and center faculties within the Ile-de-France area. Round 1,700 schoolchildren collected a million yellow bottle caps that have been used to infuse the black-and-white stadium chairs with flecks of shade.

As they discovered about recycling, the kids peppered Mr. Hamelot with powerful questions concerning the environmental affect of plastics and the right way to cut back carbon emissions. “The children have been essential and significantly concerned,” he mentioned.

All instructed, Le Pavé used 100 metric tons of recycled bottles and bottle caps to make panels for the 11,000 stadium seats, which have been pressed into type by a French firm specializing in enviornment seating. To create the panels used for the 68 silver-hued Olympic victory podiums, Le Pavé used 18 metric tons of recycled plastic and plastic foam meals containers.

On a latest day, eight folks bustled across the manufacturing unit in Aubervilliers, the place a rainbow of recycled plastic beads and chips stood in big sacks. Some staff used a forklift to feed beads right into a particular heater, whereas others guided the completed panels by a chopping machine.

The recycling course of itself does go away a carbon footprint, together with from heating the ovens and chopping the plastic panels. Even so, Mr. Pasquet mentioned, it emits a lot much less carbon dioxide than utilizing virgin plastic does.

“We’re making one thing stunning out of previous trash that’s cluttering the planet,” he mentioned.

They’re opening a second small manufacturing unit within the Burgundy area of japanese France, and are elevating funding to open two extra within the west and within the south. As the federal government seeks to reindustrialize France, Le Pavé’s goal is to create jobs by opening small factories, Mr. Pasquet mentioned, including that the previous mannequin of mega factories not met right now’s environmental and social challenges.

Le Pavé’s Aubervilliers manufacturing unit served as an exclamation level to that assertion: All the main gear was painted vibrant pink as a substitute of commercial grey. “We would like these to be the brand new colours of business, to get away from the previous picture,” he mentioned.

Lately, the Élysée Palace, the official residence of the president, put in an ornamental wall made by Le Pavé. The corporate can be producing panels for main French furnishings retailers and has initiatives within the pipeline to make parquet-style flooring for properties and buildings.

Figuring out that their concepts have come to life for the Olympic Video games has been an enormous motivator. “We see that we’ve a possibility to construct one thing that may final for years and years,” Mr. Hamelot mentioned. “That is about one thing that’s larger than all of us.”

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