Plastic recycling isn’t working, but Melodea is challenging the narrative that it never will. According to a video by the startup, most packaging is not recyclable due to the use of different types of plastic and aluminum foil for barrier properties.
So, Melodea is using cellulose nanocrystals, the natural building blocks of all plants, to create a barrier coating that is 100% recyclable, and according to the company, it protects food from the elements of oxygen, water, and grease, just as well as existing coatings.
With $500,000 invested in its new pilot center and equipment, the Israeli company is launching its barrier, called the VBSeal.
Cellulose, its main ingredient, is the most abundant biopolymer on earth. Biopolymers are polymers produced from natural sources and are either chemically synthesized from a biological material or entirely biosynthesized by living organisms. According to the startup, the nanocrystals provide “extraordinary strength” that can both enhance existing materials and create entirely new products. Plus, Melodea says the technology can be integrated into coating lines companies already have.
“Packaging producers have an urgent need for a sustainable barrier coating that has both water vapor protection and heat sealable properties and can replace the commonly used plastic PE layer,” explains Cee Azerraf, VP of Sales & Marketing of Melodea.
Melodea’s tech extracts and industrially produce cellulose nanocrystals from wood pulp and paper production side streams. In addition to PTS-certified recyclability, the company says the coating is also compostable and biodegradable.
The demand for so-called sustainable plastic has grown substantially and it’s estimated to reach a value of $137.17 billion by 2029, growing by 5.6% between now and then. This can be attributed to companies enacting sustainability goals and an increase in pressure as plastic bans increase across the world. In January, England announced a ban on single-use plastic cutlery and advocates are pushing for an even more expansive ban.
“Consumers are imposing more strident demands when it comes to the welfare of the planet, and this increasingly resonates in their purchasing behavior,” Shaul Lapidot, CEO and co-founder of Melodea said via the magazine Food Marketing and Technology. “Concurrently, the supply chain is ‘greening’ up its act, especially in light of legislative measures curbing plastic use.”
Aside from legal bans, many countries are committing to having 100% recyclable products, however as fewer and fewer companies actually meet their targets, Melodea believes a product that can be incorporated into existing coating lines can bolster progress.
With the opening of their new pilot plant, they’re hoping to expand their customer base. Already they offer both existing products and a coating service. According to Lapidot, the company plans to work “with producers of food, cosmetics, pharmaceutical, and agriculture products as well as packaging companies, at the new plant to help them to reach their goals.”