We produce over 380 million tonnes of plastic waste every year(1), with this number predicted to double by 2034. Plastic waste is mismanaged and most of it ends up in the environment, with strong negative health repercussions and huge economic impacts. Current solutions such as recycling are heavily reliant on post-consumption consumer involvement whilst existing bioplastics do not deliver on their promises – they’re either not truly compostable or way too expensive to be scalable. With increasing bans and taxes on petroleum-based plastics, such as the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), companies are looking for better alternatives.
FlexSea is tackling the plastic problem by developing an innovative seaweed-based bioplastic film that can replace single-use flexible plastic packaging in both food and non-food applications. The company plans to transform the seaweed into bioplastic rolls that are compatible with existing plastic packaging machinery for a seamless integration. This revolutionary biomaterial presents several major advantages over traditional petroleum-based plastics. It’s a truly biodegradable and compostable material; composting and disappearing in home composting environments within 8-12 weeks from disposal, as well as in soil and aquatic environments (marine and freshwater systems). A truly seamless solution to plastic pollution.
FlexSea is also industrially recyclable, meaning that discarded material resulting from the formation of the plastic film can be melted back into the process, so it has 100% efficiency in raw material transformation. In other words, producing FlexSea industrially would produce zero waste.
Team & Traction
We first met the co-founders, Carlo and Thibaut, at a climate tech event and their energy was radiating. It was clear they had a real passion for the product and deep market understanding. In fact, Carlo created the first prototype for FlexSea at his home lab during Covid: “I went through roughly 100 different material formulations and iterations when exploring the very first prototype. Our current biomaterial version still rests its base on those very initial prototypes, but has been significantly improved, also thanks to Thibaut’s specialised knowledge and scientific inputs.”
Carlo and Thibaut have known each other for over 10 years and decided to bring together their combination of business and material engineering skills to create FlexSea, while completing their Masters at Imperial College London.
In a short space of time and with very little funding, they had created an advanced prototype material, considerably increased their production capacity, filed their first IP and started initial paid pilots.
Market & Timing
The market is huge. The global plastics packaging market is $260Bn(2), while the bioplastics and biopolymers market is expected to reach $29.7Bn by 2026 with 22.7% CAGR (2021-26) (3). The official European Commission on Bioplastics predicts the EU demand for bioplastics classified as biodegradable in particular will increase by 20% over the next 5 years.
As far as we are concerned, FlexSea has little to no product-market-fit risk. Eleven leading global brands have pledged to use 100% reusable, recyclable, and compostable packaging solutions by 2025(4), and these represent only a fraction of the market. One thing is certain, all companies will be facing increasing amounts of pressure from government regulations, taxes, bans, industry best practices and consumer demand.
FlexSea’s raw material, red seaweed, grows incredibly fast and with little to no inputs, making it a very sustainable and scalable resource. Large amounts of CO2 are absorbed through seaweed cultivation, and CO2 emissions are mitigated by preventing petroleum-based plastics from entering the market.
Sourcing red seaweed as raw material also means stimulating local economies and providing jobs and reliable income to thousands of subsistence seaweed farmers in coastal regions of countries such as Indonesia, Vietnam, Philippines, Tanzania, Kenia, Mozambique and Senegal. Introducing a high-volume, constant demand commodity such as large-scale commercially available plastic would hopefully guarantee a constant and predictable stream of income for them as well as drastic improvements in working standards and regulation throughout the industry.
We are incredibly excited to partner with FlexSea and look forward to supporting their growth.