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May 2017


Plastic packaging is everywhere. Everything from food to building products and children’s’ toys comes wrapped in plastic. Plastic packaging is lightweight, durable, and it is also a great moisture barrier. Unfortunately, it is increasingly accumulating in waterways and oceans, causing harm to ecosystems. Plastic packaging takes many forms and so will the solutions to this challenge. In recent months we have seen more states and municipalities taking action to limit the use of plastic bags and expanded polystyrene packaging. A new European consortium called Ceflex (Circular Economy for Flexible Packaging), is working to turn the notoriously hard to recycle flexible pouches into valuable products. The Ellen MacArthur foundation and philanthropist Wendy Schmidt have joined forces to offer a 2 million dollar prize for innovations in packaging and recycling. Even LEGO is looking for new bricks and Reebok for new soles. These are good signs for companies that offer solutions to the plastic pollution challenges.

Retailers Continue to Act on Safer Chemicals

Consumer campaigns like the Mind the Store campaign’s 2017 retailer report card and the Chemical Footprint project challenge businesses to promote ingredients transparency and safer products. These efforts alongside growing consumer awareness have created a climate where brands and retailers are competing to win the trust of their consumers. Most recently, CVS announced banning products containing parabens, phthalates and various formulations of formaldehyde. Similar bans are already in place at Target and Walmart.

Agriculture Is Hot

Investors poured over $216 million into agriculture startup companies during first quarter of 2017, according to research from CB insights more than double the same quarter last year. Areas funded include soil monitoring drones, new pesticides, and urban vertical farms. Meanwhile, market research firm Frost & Sullivan reported that in 2016 the bio-pesticide market was at $1.2 billion, growing at 11.5% over previous year.

A Contest for Safer Preservatives

The Green Chemistry and Commerce Council (GC3) has launched a global competition to identify innovators developing preservatives with improved environmental health and safety profiles for use in cosmetics, personal care, and household products. An impressive list of brands and retailers have agreed to collaborate on the evaluation of this challenge including Beautycounter, Colgate-Palmolive, Johnson & Johnson, Method, Procter & Gamble, Reckitt Benckiser, SC Johnson, Target, Unilever, and Walmart.


Epicrop, a Lincoln, Neb.-based company with epigenetic technology to improve crop yields and increase stress tolerance, has raised $3.2 million from North Forty Ventures, Nelnet, Speedway Properties, Allen & Company, and TechAccel.

Function of Beauty, a Stamford, Conn.-based startup that creates personalized shampoos and conditioners that allow users to select health, sustainability and performance attributes, has raised $9.5 million in Series A funding led by GGV Capital, with participation from Y Combinator.

Inocucor Technologies, a Montreal, Canada-based company that makes microbial products for soil, improving yield and quality, has raised $29 million in Series B funding led by TPG Alternative and Renewable Technologies, with participation from Cycle Capital Management, Desjardins Innovatech, and Closed Loop Capital.

Cool Planet, a nine years old, biofuel turned biological agriculture products company, has raised $19.3 million in venture funding from earlier investors North Bridge Venture Partners and Agustín Coppel.

Calysta, a Menlo Park, Ca.-based company developing a sustainable, alternative feed ingredient for fish, livestock and pets, has raised $40 million in Series D funding led by Mitsui & Co., with participation from Temasek and earlier backers Cargill, the Municipal Employee Retirement System of Michigan, Walden Riverwood Ventures, Aqua-Spark and Pangaea Ventures.

Industrial Microbes, an Emeryville, Ca.-based company whose technology makes chemical manufacturing more efficient and less polluting was awarded $300,000 grant by the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Light Polymers, a South San Francisco-based company that produces materials for flexible and foldable OLED displays using a water-based process that eliminates the use of harmful metals and solvents from the production process, has raised $24.3 Million in Series A funding.

Thymox, a Quebec-based company making botanical products for use in crop protection, animal health, and cleaning markets based on thymol derived from the thyme plant, has raised $4.6 million in Series B funding from Cycle Capital Management, Desjardins Innovatech, and other investors.


Evonik buys preservatives maker Dr. Straetmans for EUR 100 million ($107 million) adding alternative cosmetic preservatives to Evonik’s portfolio.

In Case You Missed It

Nicholas Kristof says your sperm in trouble. Our future will only be as healthy as our sperm. But these days, scientists say, an increasing proportion of sperm — now about 90 percent in a typical young man — are misshapen, sometimes with two heads or two tails. Endocrine disrupting chemicals in products and supply chains may play a role.

Arlene Blum and the Green Science Policy Institute are launching easy-to-follow short videos with distinguished scientists that to help people understand how to reduce the use of harmful chemicals and improve health and environment worldwide. You can learn more and register here.

Also Noted

Synthetic spider silk tie.

Tiny worms against the world’s plastics.


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