Startup founders Miranda Wang and Jeanny Yao wanted to clean up plastic from the world’s oceans, so they came to SOSV’s IndieBio with a mission to make plastic-eating microbes. And now their company Novoloop has raised an $11+ million series A+ round and has formed an important partnership with materials bonding company Bemis Associates. Here’s how what they learned on their journey has taken them into the uncharted waters of planetary health.
The dirty secret of the plastics industry is that only a tiny fraction of plastics are ever recycled. What’s worse, many single-use, light plastics cannot even be recycled. In many cases, the best you can do with those is burn them and harvest some of the energy that went into making them. Unfortunately that pours carbon into the air.
When the two looked into turning plastics into “fish food,” they found the economics simply didn’t make sense. Sure, they discovered microbes that could eat the unrecyclable plastics and then those microbes could be turned into a clean food source, but that turned out to be a pretty expensive way to feed fish.
What they needed was a way to turn the unrecyclable plastics (such as polyethylene) that end up in our oceans into something far more valuable. Rather than recycle them into more cheap light plastic or downcycle them into heat, they looked for a way to upcycle these plastics into something more useful and valuable.
And now after years of testing, Wang and Yao have done it! They have developed a low energy process to take the worst of the worst plastic garbage and turn it into pure precursor molecules, which can then be upcycled into brand new durable plastic — called Oistre — to be used in shoes, cars, homes, and much more.
Now their company Novoloop is refining this technology and working to scale up. In fact, they are now collaborating with waste collection partners to intercept single-use plastics before they ever make it to the waterways. And by transforming that light plastic waste, its value increases from less than $0 (it actually costs money to dispose of it) to being worth a significant amount per kilo. Companies manufacturing products with durable high-performance plastics can now do so with material that produces up to 45% less carbon emissions and Oistre is also properly recyclable.
Thanks to Novoloop, it’s possible to inexpensively transform disposable plastics into super high quality durable materials.
Counterintuitively, from an environmental viewpoint, disposable plastics can be better for the environment than other materials. For example, reusable cotton bags are a disaster by comparison, because it takes so much pesticide, land, and water to make cotton. Recycling disposable plastic is a better solution, and with Novoloop’s tech we can actually do that.
Why hasn’t this been done before? Because single-use disposable plastics are so cheap to make, even if they could be recycled, there has been no market for that. Thanks to Novoloop, it’s possible to inexpensively transform disposable plastics into super high quality durable materials. This is a revolution in the making and a welcome one.
We need to move faster in recycling carbon, and solutions like Oistre are the way to go. It’s an absolute pleasure to support Novoloop with resources and capital, and it’s deeply satisfying to make investments for the health of the planet. I believe so strongly in the importance of this investment I joined the board. The most exciting thing about all this is the capacity to scale up quickly. Before you know it, you’ll be walking in Oistre-soled shoes and thus walking to cleaner air. So together let’s throw disposable plastic for a loop!
By Bill Liao, SOSV General Partner