Plastics and microplastics remain and accumulate in our oceans for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. From Atlantic islands and thousands of bird nests across northwestern Europe to fruits and vegetables, they are everywhere. But that’s not all, plastic pollution is found deep in the ocean and embedded in the seabed to the bowels of corals and turtles, and it “even stays” in human organs.
They already affect aquatic ecosystems and biodiversity and introduce toxic elements into the food chain. For example, microplastics affect the respiratory systems of Japanese rice fish, and fish eating microplastics die at a younger age.
The source of the problem may be disposable waste, or sometimes it is less important. For example, laundry detergent is usually made of plastic microcapsules to retain scent. Soon, these “added” microplastics will be banned in products across Europe.
However, there has been no viable alternative that combines biodegradability with performance and fragrance stability in laundry care products until recently.
Fortunately, the Paris-based biotech startup calyxia has developed new easily biodegradable microcapsules, EnviroCaps, and is stepping up its production. The company recently announced that it has raised 15 million euros ($ 17.5 million) in a Series A funding round led by Astanor Ventures, has already signed trade deals with global manufacturers laundry products.
In addition, the startup is also developing coatings that can be applied to plastic products, such as sporting goods, electronics, or cars, to prevent the material from releasing microplastics as it wears out.
CEO and co-founder of Calyxia Jamie Walters, researcher at the University of Paris ESPCI, in partnership with scientists from the University of Cambridge and Harvard to develop new green manufacturing technology. The process creates microcapsule products from thousands of different shell materials.
This allowed the Calyxia team to quickly create a massive library of potential biodegradable materials to use for hulls that combine extraordinary performance and biodegradability. The result was EnviroCaps, the the first in the world Non-toxic, easily biodegradable and powerful perfume microcapsules.
In agriculture, microcapsules are used to slowly release active ingredients such as pesticides. Using capsules improves crop yield and uses less active ingredient than spraying directly on crops. However, current products are made from plastic and end up damaging the health of the soil. In contrast, the new microcapsules degrade completely, leaving only CO2 and oxygen. As an added bonus, the capsules also improve performance, so companies can use less active ingredient, thus lowering costs.
In laundry care products, microcapsules are used to protect the scent from evaporation, diffuse the scent into the fabric during a wash cycle, and then slowly release that scent while wearing for long lasting freshness. As mentioned earlier, existing microcapsules are plastic and therefore do not degrade. They end up washing the pipes and end up damaging aquatic ecosystems. During laboratory tests, Calyxia found that its EnviroCaps biodegrade completely in water treatment plants.
The coating that Calyxia plans to create will protect plastic products from UV degradation or wear. “We live in a plastic world, and these plastics are degrading,” Walters said. As the product breaks down, the coating provides a lubricant that stops additional wear, allowing the material to last up to 10 times longer.
We are proud to contribute to the EU’s efforts against microplastics. As new regulations to phase out intentionally added microplastics are implemented, manufacturers and consumers will need greener solutions like ours.
In a new production plant in Europe, the company can manufacture hundreds of tons of green products and aims to reach thousands of tons as it starts working with large companies that urgently need to make changes before the EU. ban on microplastics will come into force in 2022. In addition, Calyxia plans to expand into the American and Asian markets in the years to come.