Transforming polyethylene (the common ubiquitous plastic we are all familiar with) into high-value plastics that can compete with “virgin” plastics (i.e. plastics made directly from petro-chemicals) is a diabolical problem to be solved. The fact that this has been extremely difficult to do means that billions of tons of plastic are never recycled, and are draining the planet and our oceans. A new US-based startup, novoloopClaims to have come up with an answer.
Two female founding scientists, Jenny Yao and Miranda Wang, have been working on this problem for more than five years.
They have now raised $11 million in Series A financing led by Envisioning Partners, with participation from Valo Ventures and Bemis Associates; Investors who joined the first round included SOSV, Mistletoe and Time Ventures. Novoloop is also partnering with Bemis Associates, which manufactures garment binding solutions such as seam tape, which can be found in high-performance outerwear.
Novoloop is preparing to convert plastic waste into high-performance chemicals and materials. The company says it has developed a proprietary process technology it calls ATOD™ (Accelerated Thermal Oxidative Decomposition). It claims that it breaks down polyethylene (the most widely used plastic today) into chemical building blocks that can be synthesized into high-value products.
The first product will be Oistre™, a thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) product for use in footwear, apparel, sporting goods, automotive and electronics. Novoloop claims that it has a carbon footprint that is up to 46% smaller than that of a conventional TPU.
Miranda Wang, co-founder and CEO of Novoloop, said in a statement: “Plastics aren’t going away anytime soon, so we need to innovate to bridge the gap between produced and repurchased. After years of technology development. Subsequently, we are thrilled to announce support from high potential investors and partners to commercialize this much-needed technology.”
“We are really compelled to lead the round of investments that Novoloop has found to be a product-market fit,” said Jun Cha, partner at Envisioning Partners. “Novoloop has proved that Oystre has a wide range of applications in the market, even in its early stages.”
Speaking to me on a call, Wang said: “Polyethylene plastic is the most common packaging, but it is extremely difficult to chemically change and break down and turn into useful things. We have developed what is essentially a new chemical approach to the oxidation of this polyethylene. Adopted it broke it.
“Everyone else is turning this plastic waste polythene into fossil fuel reserves. But for us, our approach is to take the polyethylene waste directly and convert it in one step… so it essentially bypasses the multiple steps and chemistry that would have happened otherwise if people took it back to oil or gas,” he said.
Novoloop’s rivals will include BASF, Covestro, Lubrizol, Huntsman. These are the companies that make virgin fossil fuel based TPUs. Today about 99% of TPUs are virgin. In other words, it is a huge industry that is ready for disruption.