From the highest peaks to the ocean’s deepest points, microplastics are virtually everywhere. These pernicious plastics usually originate from unexpected sources such as laundry detergents, which are typically made with plastic microcapsules in order to retain fragrance for longer. Making those microcapsules biodegradable, however, could go a long way towards solving the problem.
This concept is what Paris-based startup Calyxia has developed in an effort to make microplastics a thing of the past. The company, which has recently secured $17.5 million in a Series A round of funding, is also developing coatings that can be added to plastic products — such as electronics and sporting goods — to help prevent the material from shedding off microplastics as it wears down.
To create the novel technology, company CEO Jamie Walters partnered with scientists from Harvard and Cambridge University, reports Fast Company. The team built a variety of potential biodegradable materials to use for the capsules and then tested their biodegradability and performance.
One area where their technology could prove useful is agriculture, where farmers use microcapsules to slowly release active compounds like pesticides, helping improve crop yield while reducing the amount of the needed active ingredient. However, most of the current products are made of plastic, which means that they end up harming the health of the soil.
By contrast, the new microcapsules fully biodegraded in tests, leaving only oxygen and CO2 behind. Additionally, the capsules enhanced performance, further decreasing the quantity of pesticide needed, saving costs as a result.
Calyxia’s biodegradable products also proved as a viable, sustainable alternative to conventional plastic microcapsules used in laundry detergent, which typically end up down the drain, harming aquatic ecosystems.
The company’s new production facility has the capacity to manufacture hundreds of tons of products, and Calyxia plans to scale it up to thousands of tons, as it begins to partner up with FMCG brands before the EU’s microplastic ban goes into effect in 2022.