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The Inspiration


One summer day in 2018, manufacturing entrepreneur Chris Graff was visiting Governors Island in New York City and noticed dozens of Adirondack chairs strewn about the park. These particular chairs were made by an Indiana-based company that makes its products out of recycled milk cartons. Chris learned the raw material used for the chairs was sourced from large urban areas (like NYC) and then shipped out-of-state – often to places as far away as China – to be converted into pellets that were then shipped to Indiana to manufacture the chairs. The chairs were then sent back to NYC, closing the loop. For Chris, an efficiency expert, that didn’t sit very well: “Why can’t we take some of this recyclable trash, manufacture something here instead, and then sell into this market? Tighten the loop, save money, save energy, create local jobs.” Thus, an idea was born.


The Issue & Solution 

Every day, the New York City Department of Sanitation and a number of private haulers successfully collect several thousand tons of recyclable waste. Despite these efforts, not all of this material ends up being properly leveraged and utilized. While these recyclables are viable as materials for manufacturing and other purposes, a lack of existing markets for many types of recyclables means materials often cannot find a new home and instead end up in landfills miles away.

To address this lack of potential markets, Chris Graff decided to launch the NYC Curb-to-Market Challenge (CTMC) to create market opportunities for recyclable waste that would otherwise be diverted to landfill and enhance the efforts of New York City to facilitate a more circular economy. The CTMC calls on applicants to propose the best idea and business plan for using NYC’s recycled waste to locally manufacture a product that can be sold in NYC. 

About the Prize


The winning entry will demonstrate the most efficient, sustainable and environmentally aware way to implement the entire process of sourcing and converting the recycled waste for use, manufacture a product locally in NYC, and sell the product to the largest potential market. It is expected that a winning business plan will be developed into a business by the submitting applicant.


The winning business plan will receive a $500,000 prize, split between a $100,000 cash prize and a $400,000 equity investment in the associated startup. Additionally, the winner will receive involved advising from Chris Graff, founder of the NYC Curb-to-Market Challenge, a project of Brooktrout Partners, LLC, as well as access to a network of advisors and angel investors.


Please note: This competition is seeking a manufacturing solution. Any submission that does not meet that criteria will not be considered.




February 1, 2019        First date you can apply

June 1, 2019               Deadline to submit a plan is 11:59pm ET

June 1-15, 2019          Judges to review plans and announce finalists
June 21, 2019             Finalists make in person presentations
July 1, 2019                Winner announced


Submission criteria

CTMC participants will be required to submit a business plan that must do the following:


1. Identify the Raw Recyclable Waste Material (RRWM) to be used. 


This is the “Curb” part of the challenge. The majority of raw material(s), by weight, used to produce the proposed product must be discarded waste sourced from within New York City’s five boroughs (Manhattan, The Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn & Staten Island).

Other raw material(s) sourced outside this area may also be used in the manufacturing of the product, provided that the majority by weight is locally sourced RRWM.


Categories of raw recyclable waste material may include, but are not be limited to:






Construction & Demolition



The plan must identify a feasible and verifiable method of securing the raw recyclable waste material, while ensuring that any applicable codes, regulations and/or laws are met.


2. Identify and describe the product. 


The plan must describe a finished product that can be sold to customers within the New York Metropolitan Area. Customers may include, but are not limited to:




Governmental agencies


There are no limitations on the type of product, and it may be a single product or multiple products as part of a product line.


3. Explain how the product will be locally manufactured. 


The manufacturing process should be explained in as much detail as possible, including the cost of labor and materials. Description and estimated costs of equipment should also be included.


Submissions may, but are not required to, identify a specific local manufacturing facility. If a specific facility is not identified, then requirements for a facility should be included (e.g. square footage, zoning, utility requirements, ideal location, truck docks, etc.).

Submissions should also identify if their business plan requires a facility or infrastructure that is not currently available within the five boroughs. Ideal business plans will incorporate any necessary infrastructure within their model.


If the product to be manufactured contains multiple parts, it is permissible for parts to be sourced from anywhere; however, greater weight will be given to business plans that expect to source these parts locally.


4. Describe the marketing plan.


This is the “Market” part of the challenge. 


Provide market research, target market identification, competitive analysis, pricing, marketing strategy and income statement projections (for a period of three years).


Prototype. Making prototype(s) of the product is encouraged but not required, as complexities and costs may make it prohibitive to do so in some cases. If a prototype is produced, please submit photos and/or video, as appropriate, with the initial submission. If the entry is judged a finalist, then the prototype(s) should be included in the in-person presentation to the panel.


Important note: As part of the judging process, all other things being equal, greater weight will be given to plans that use the most discarded waste. That is, the bigger the slice of waste pie, the better. Additionally, a larger potential market will also be weighted heavier than a small niche market. That is, plans that are feasible and make the most impact will be given greater weight.

Why Manufacturing?


Finding a creative solution to leverage NYC’s recycled waste will not only promote sustainability and environmental goals, but will also provide unique opportunities for workforce development in the outer boroughs. Data demonstrates that manufacturing is particularly beneficial to local economies, providing a strong foundation from which an economy can continue to grow:

  • Manufacturing has the greatest multiplier effect of any sector – for every $1.00 spent in manufacturing, an estimated $1.89 is added to the economy

  • Manufacturing drives more innovation than any other sector in the US – more than 75% of all private sector research and development is performed in the manufacturing sector

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