CEO: Giovanna Laudisio
Plastic pollution is one of the global challenges of the 21st century. While the removal of large plastic objects like bottles, fish nets and bags can be achieved by clean up initiatives and better plastic waste management systems, plastic microparticles (<5mm), intentionally added to many everyday products, are impossible to remove once they reach the environment.
Plants have been shown to absorb plastic microparticles from the soil into the roots, stems and leaves (Nature Sustainability 2020); birds and fish with their stomachs stuffed with plastic starve and die, and microplastics have now been found in human placentas (Environment International 2021) with potential adverse effects on human health due to the presence of absorbed chemical compounds that could cause long-term damage.
For these reasons, Naturbeads believes that plastic microbeads must be removed at the source with a natural and biodegradable alternative. Plastic microbeads represent a market of £5.3 billion and contribute >250,000 tonnes to microplastic pollution in the oceans globally.
Naturbeads are made of cellulose which is a natural biopolymer fully biodegradable in all environments, marine, fresh water, soil, home composting, landfill, anaerobic digestion, industrial composting. Cellulose is abundant and renewable because it is what plants are made of and every year the earth produces millions of tons of cellulose. It is sustainable because it can be sourced from certified sustainable forestry, and it can be extracted from biomass.
Naturbeads cellulose beads have been successfully tested to replace plastic microbeads in applications ranging from sensory agents in cosmetics to structuring agents and matting agents in paints and fillers in adhesives and are currently being tested in packaging, biopharma, food, biocatalysis and consumer products such as shoes with biodegradable insoles.
Naturbeads has raised £1 million pounds of funding split between grants and investment and has received £200K under Innovate UK SBRI government funded research. With this funding we built a pilot plant to take production from laboratory to pilot scale (1 ton/year) and we have sampled 33 companies and 5 research centers. We have received 8 positive feedbacks so far, for a potential business of 400 tons/year and we are now looking for funding to scale at the next lever (100-400 tons/year).
The impact that they want to achieve is not only to reduce the damage of microplastics on the environment but also to reduce CO2 emissions, as plastics are fossil fuel-based whereas cellulose is plant-based, and address 3 sustainable development goals: climate action, life on earth and life below water.