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Fajer Mushtaq, co-founder Oxyle, Swisspreneur Podcast

EP #308 - Fajer Mushtaq: The Dangerous Pollution in Swiss Waters

Fajer Mushtaq

March 20, 2023

9:02 - The problem of water contamination

15:29 - Nanotechnology and micro-pollutants

17:09 - Remediation vs tackling the source

19:52 - Oxyle’s customers

33:42 - Attracting talent as a cleantech startup

About Fajer Mushtaq:

Fajer Mushtaq is the co-founder and CEO at Oxyle, a cleantech startup with a    game-changing water remediation technology. She holds a PhD in Micro- and Nanotechnology for Environmental Remediation from ETH and previously worked there as a BRIDGE Proof-of-Concept Fellow, before starting Oxyle in 2020.

When we usually think of water pollution, we think of things like cigarette butts, plastic bags, or perhaps even bacteria or viruses. But what most of us fail to consider are micropollutants (like hormones, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, industrial waste, etc…), so called not because they’re found in small amounts, but because a small amount is enough to have a carcinogenic effect, or cause infertility or birth defects. 1 nanogram per liter (which is the equivalent of 1 drop in 20 Olympic-sized pools) is concentration enough to cause humans and their ecosystems harm. What’s more, these micro-pollutants are bioaccumulative (meaning if you keep drinking them, they keep increasing in concentration in your blood), and stay in bodies of water for decades on end unless treated appropriately.

That’s where the ETH spin-off Oxyle comes in. Oxyle works at the last stage of water treatment to remove these micro-pollutants through their innovative nanotechnology. They do so in a sustainable, scalable manner by getting in touch with big companies looking to remediate the harm they’ve caused and prevent any more harm from being done. This is equally as important in Switzerland as it is in other places: the water Swiss people drink has 17x the amount of carcinogenic pesticides that is safe to consume.

Fajer strongly believes that  fighting climate change is done not only through innovative startups like Oxyle, but also through regulation. We need to hold polluters responsible, and nowadays, due to the growing sophistication of water analysis techniques, we definitely can. This way we can both remediate the harm that’s already been done, and stop future pollution at its source.

Memorable Quotes:

"Having the ‘ETH spin-off’ label gives you credibility and opens up access to crucial infrastructure."

Resources Mentioned: (to learn about PFAS chemicals)

This episode was co-produced by Startup Days 2023. Click here to purchase your ticket now.

To listen to the other episode in our startup days 2023 bonus series, check out our conversations with Christoph Bertschi and Arman Anatürk.

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