Investing in a polymer revolution.
We're excited to announce our investment in Polymateria, a UK-based plastics technology company revolutionising the way we tackle the plastic waste problem.
Founded in 2016 out of Imperial College London’s Innovation Hub, Polymateria began with the vision of solving the plastics crisis. Their view was nuanced - can we try to find a sustainable way to consume plastics, rather than approach the problem with the view that “all plastic is evil”? Polymateria has since developed a patented solution which involves a chemical additive that enables the biotransformation of Polyolefins (one of the most common forms of plastic in single-use packaging), leading to their safe degradation once they enter the natural environment. What is particularly interesting, is that this degradation only occurs after the packaging has been used by consumers, at the end of a pre-defined dormancy period, which can be altered depending on the application. The material itself biotransforms into a wax-like substance, that is then consumed by natural agents of decay like microbes, fungi and bacteria.
Polymateria recently completed their Series B in May 2023, led by Singapore-based ABC Fund (backed by Temasek) and strategic investor Indorama Ventures (one of the world’s largest producers of PET resins). Polymateria also has the strong support of King Charles (yes, His Royal Majesty).
Our own thesis on plastics coincides with Polymateria’s view. Not all plastic is evil, and moreover, in many applications plastic is actually the perfect material. It is malleable, odourless, cost effective, rust-resistant, has a low melting point and a high tensile strength, and is chemically inert which means it doesn’t react when it comes in contact with other materials. Rather than focusing on solutions that replace plastics (believe me, we’ve looked extensively at alt-materials and bioplastics), we are also focusing on solutions that can make plastics, particularly single-use plastics, more sustainable.
That said, the plastic waste problem is simply too big to ignore! The quantum of plastic waste produced globally is continuing on an upward trend with the majority of this relating to the packaging industry. India is among the 12 countries that together produce over 52% of the world's plastic waste.
According to UNEP, plastics, including microplastics, are now ubiquitous in our natural environment. They have become part of our fossil record and are a marker for our current geological era. But substitutes for plastic each have their own environmental footprint and are not as versatile as plastic. With functional equivalence in mind, it is clear that responsible production and use of plastic should be the focus.
Why we invested
We’re extremely excited to help Polymateria scale, particularly in India. We believe this solution can transform the way Indian corporates and society think about plastic waste. As an India-based institutional investor, Peak Sustainability Ventures is actively working with senior management at Polymateria to provide strategic inputs (particularly on India), corporate connections, and other value as needed by the Company. If you are interested in the plastics mission we are working on, the mission Polymateria is embarking on, or if you are keen to get involved in this space, feel free to reach out to us at: email@example.com.
Over 400 million tonnes of plastic waste is generated globally annually. This number is continuing on an upward trend.
Percentage of fugitive plastics i.e. plastics that end up in the natural environment and is therefore not managed.
Percentage of plastic waste in India that is estimated to be mismanaged or uncollected litter by the OECD.
Drop-in solution to an existing, established process
Polymateria's solution is a drop-in additive that enables the biotransformation of plastic packaging, rather than requiring the development of new materials or changes to the existing manufacturing processes. This increases the likelihood of widespread adoption and scalability.
Polymateria has demonstrated the complete biodegradation of polyolefins into water, CO2, and biomass in a range of commonly used packaging without generating microplastics and without the need for industrial composting facilities. The process occurs at ambient temperatures and does not require energy utilisation.
Partner's Note: At Peak, we take time to understand complex, climate problems deeply. Plastic is one of those problems. There are over seven different types of plastic, each with their own methods of recycling. While the problem of plastic waste seems insurmountable, we believe there will be scalable solutions that emerge to tackle it. Polymateria's technology represents one such solution. A lot of the focus we see in the entrepreneurship ecosystem today is focused on replacing or recycling plastics. Can we find alternative materials to replace plastic (check out our blogs on mycelium and algae)? Can we identify energy-efficient processes to recycle or re-use plastic waste? Are there better ways to segregate? When we took a close look at the plastics problem, we found that it's extremely tough to find a good substitute for plastic. Instead, can we find a sustainable way to live with plastics? Polymateria represents our first foray into the space, on the back of a considerable amount of work. Keep your eyes out for more from us in plastics.