Melt and Flow
Thermal processability is a key attribute for the adoption of sustainable resins. A new generation of bio-based alternatives to petroleum-based plastics are on their way to the market. These alternatives include, alone or in various combinations, biobased polymers such as PLA, PHA, PBS, and also other bio-based plastic alternatives such as starch, algae based, agricultural waste, or chitosan-based materials. Some of the young companies developing new, biobased plastic alternatives are FullCycle Bioplastics, Mango Materials, Genecis, Cruz Foam, Traceless, SWAY, Solublue, NotPLA, Lolliware, and Mi Terro.
One of the key markets for plastics, in both volume and impact, is packaging, a space where cost “is king”. The cost of plastic packaging is driven by the cost of making the primary material (i.e. from feedstock to pellets), as well as by the cost of converting the pellets into final products, such as clam shells for strawberries. For petroleum-based plastic the extrusion and thermoforming machines involved in this conversion step run fast and efficient, using the plastic’s thermal processability, which means its ability to melt and flow when heated.
An example of the significant impact thermal processability can have, is the contrast between soluble PVOH films made by evaporation, which cost between $10 and $30 per kilogram, and polyolefin films made by blown-film extrusion (the fastest process), which cost between $1.7 and 2.5 per kilogram, despite the fact that resin costs for each of these are much closer (for PVOH around $2.5/Kg and for PE around 0.90/Kg).
Biobased and compostable resins will need to prove they can be thermally processable. Thermal processability not only brings down the cost of manufacturing but also enables downstream compatibility with heat sealing, enabling the use of the plastic itself as a glue.
Factors that influence a material’s thermal processability include the melting and flow viscosity temperature being sufficiently different from the decomposition temperature, and enough stability through heating and cooling cycles. Thermal stability is often hard to achieve in biobased plastics with appreciable moisture content, because water speeds the degradation of these polymers, when heated.
Breakthroughs in thermal processability can be pivotal for the adoption of sustainable resins. An example is BioLogiQ, that improved melt-flow, extrusion, and compounding for starch resins that can be blended with both conventional and biobased plastics. Another example is UK based AquaPak, that claims to have made a similar breakthrough for the extrusion for PVOH, which could reduce costs of water-soluble films.
Notes from 2021
Pressure continued to increase on perfluoro-alkyl substances (aka PFAS) in 2021:
bans by corporations including McDonalds and RiteAid, bans by states including Maine and California, studies of PFAS levels in indoor air and cosmetics. The EPA started testing for PFAS and GreenScreen launched a PFAS-free certification. Safer Made portfolio company Repurpose eliminated PFAS from all its products, while GTT and Dimpora are working to eliminate PFAS from textiles and apparel.
Notable publications from friends and collaborators in 2021 include:
Dr. Shanna Swan’s book on the reproductive toxicity of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs).
Safer Made and Green Science Policy’s New York Times editorial about the connection between climate change, plastic pollution, and chemical toxicity.
Material Innovation Initiative’s report on the materials innovation landscape in textiles.
Closed Loop’s report mapping molecular recycling.
Circulate Capital’s report quantifying GHG impact of plastic recycling projects.
Green Chemistry and Commerce Council’s update on the state of the green chemistry economy.
Financing, Exits, and Activity
In 2021 we counted 52 financing rounds in safer, more sustainable materials and products, for a total of $2.5 billion invested. Notable exits from last year include: AllBirds with an IPO that valued the company at $2.15 billion, The Honest Company with an IPO that valued the company at $1.44 billion, and BeautyCounter that was acquired by the Carlyle Group in a transaction valuing the company above $1 billion.
At Safer Made we saw 173 new companies looking to raise capital, a significant increase from 2020 during which we saw 113 new companies. We made 3 new investments in Defunkify, Dimpora, and Green Theme Technologies. Portfolio company Ecologic Brands was acquired by Jabil.
Agreena, a company that verifies and sells carbon credits tied to regenerative farming practices, raised $4.7 million.
Alpha Paw, a pet wellness company selling supplements, food, and accessories, raised $8 million.
Ambercycle, developer of a textile waste recycling technology, raised $21.6 million.
Babylist, an online registry for baby stuff that features parenting content, raised $40 million.
Bluepallet, an online marketplace connecting manufacturers with the chemical industry, raised $5 million.
Calyxia, a plastics additive manufactured focused on reducing microplastics through biodegradable microcapsule technology, raised $17.6 million.
CarbonCapture, a company developing machines that trap carbon dioxide, raised $35 million.
Cleancult, a cleaning brand focused on plant-based ingredients, raised $25 million.
CleanFiber, maker of sustainable cellulose insulation, raised $11.9M.
Cometeer, a frozen coffee company packaged in recyclable aluminum pods, raised $35 million.
Commonwealth Fusion, a technology company trying to commercialize fusion energy, raised $1.8 billion to build the world’s first commercial fusion reactor.
Dispatch Goods, a reusable container marketplace that partners with restaurants, businesses, and consumers to obtain, clean, and re-distribute containers, raised $3.7 million in seed funding.
Eat Just, maker of plant-based egg products, raised $267 million.
The EVERY Company, a company with fermentation technology to make animal-free proteins whose first product is an egg replacement, raised $175 million.
Evrnu, a textile recycling technology developer, raised $15M.
Future Farm, an alt-meat startup, raised $58 million.
HumanCo, a holding company that invests in and builds brands focused on healthier living and sustainability, raised $35 million.
Liquid Death, the canned water company, raised $75 million.
Lilac Solutions, a company with technology to increase the production of lithium from brine, raised $150 million.
MycoWorks, maker of mycelium-based leathers, raised $125 million.
New Age Meats, a cultured meat company whose first product offering will be a variety of pork sausages, raised $25 million.
Osmoses, a developer of membrane technology for gas separations, raised $3 million.
Outer, direct-to-consumer outdoor furniture brand, raised $50 million.
Parade, a direct-to-consumer underwear brand that boasts sustainable fabrics, raised $20 million.
Perfect Day, a consumer biology company whose best-known product is animal-free milk protein, raised $350 million.
Rebundle, maker of hair extensions made from plants, raised $1.4 million.
RoadRunner Recycling, a sustainable waste management provider, raised $70 million.
Shiru, a biotech company creating plant-based ingredients for the food industry, raised $17 million.
Spiber, a developer of plant-based protein polymers inspired by spider silk, raised $91 million.
Turtletree, a biotech startup that's using cell-based technology in milk production, raised $30 million.
Turing, a software company that helps brands formulate products faster, raised $16.5 million.
TreeDots, a B2B marketplace for reducing food waste, just raised $11 million.
Who Gives A Crap, a direct-to-consumer maker of forest friendly toilet paper, paper towels and tissues, raised $30.7 million.
Vuori, an activewear brand based in surf culture and sustainability, raised $400 million.
Yotta Energy, builder of modular solar energy storage units, has raised $13 million.
IPOs and Acquisitions
Cargill buys epoxidized oil business from Arkema, acquiring capacity to make key buildinging blocks for biobased chemicals and plastics for 38.8 Million (10x annual revenue).
Enhesa, a health and safety compliance intelligence platform, acquired Scivera, a chemical toxicity and compliance screening software for an undisclosed amount.
L’Oreal acquires Youth to the People, a clean, vegan, personal care brand who had an estimated 50 million in revenue in 2021.
Harry’s acquires Lume Deodorant for an undisclosed amount.
Why are we finding benzene everywhere we look?
Building more PLA production capacity.
Fast food phthalates.
Calling for a cap on chemical pollution.
Products made by Safer Made portfolio companies
Compostable single use at Repurpose.com and Repurpose Amazon Store
Safer surface cleaner at Forceofnatureclean.com and Force of Nature Amazon Store
Examples of products using P2's chemistry: here and here
Nohbo's personal care pods: Sunrisesession.com
A better laundry detergent at Defunkify.com and Defunkify Amazon Store
Rain Jackets with GTT's PFAS-free chemistry at Black Diamond and Trew