It’s not news that plastic pollution has to come to an end, and the global community has been aware of this for sometime now. The EU has taken a stand against plastic products; prohibiting use of non perishables. Israel has begun promoting laws against the use of disposable plates and cutlery in national parks, as well as at the country’s beaches. Looking to help reduce the pollution challenge an Israeli startup plans to take waste from supermarkets, restaurants, and food distributors - and turn it into bioplastic. Resulting, according to the company, in a significant drop in environmental pollution.
When bacteria make pickles
Israeli startup TripleW has developed a biotech solution that can be integrated into existing food waste management sites; fitting into existing waste treatment infrastructure to create biogas and electricity. A major chunk of the waste comes from big supermarkets returning expired food, disqualified food during the QA process, waste from restaurants, and more.
The waste is collected and put in a fermenter, equipped with sensors and temperature and acidity control. Inside the bioreactor, TripleW adds engineered bacteria, which continue to dissolve food, and release lactic acid. “Basically, the bacteria make pickles,” explains Tal Shapira, CEO and founder of TripleW, in a chat with Geektime.
Shapira explains that the lactic acid is locked in food waste, and the company’s solution applies chemical manipulation to adapt its purest form according to specifications of lactic acid market demand. And why is all this a good thing? “Pure lactic acid can be polymerized,” says Shapira.
The polymer-grade lactic acid result is a key element of polylactic acid, a PLA bioplastic, mostly used in food packaging. This creates a circular affect, where food is constantly being recycled from itself in the form of renewable plastic. Existing renewable plastic solutions are mostly made from sugar canes and corn, which are highly volatile resources.
The company initially launched in a factory in Belgium that processes 10 tons of food waste every day. According to the company, the Belgian factory will be able to increase its capacity to 50 tons daily by the end of the year, and even later on to 500 tons a day. TripleW plans to continue expansion across Europe, as well as spread into North America.
Has an oil company as an investor
TripleW recently closed a $5 million Series B round, with $3 million coming from Millennium Food-Tech, and the rest coming from both new and existing investors, including Elah Fund, which owns a major stake in Sonol (Israeli fuel provider); and Hutchison Kinrot. Additionally, the company received grants from the Bird Fund and the Israel, Belgian, and European Innovation Authorities. The company has raised $17 million since it was founded in 2016.
TripleW was founded by Tal Shapira and Amir Oranim, who serve as co-CEOs. The company has 20 employees split between its R&D center in Netanya and Belgium. Most of the company’s employees come from a high academic background in chemistry, biology, and biotechnology. Millennium Food-Tech has previously invested in a number of Israeli companies, operating in the foodtech industry, such as SavorEat, and its alt-meat burgers; Phytolon, and its plant-based food coloring; and Tipa, which develops biodegradable food packaging.