Waste from plastics has gained worldwide attention in recent years as scientists find massive accumulation in oceans, microplastics contaminating our food supply, and pollution spreading to distant ecosystems. As a result, countries are rapidly moving to ban plastics, particularly single use, and multinational companies are pouring billions of dollars into R&D to find replacements. Decomer Technology co-founders Mart Salumäe and Kelly Kangur, out of Estonia’s University of Tartu, has developed a new plant-based material to replace a plastics in a huge range of single-use products in food industry, agriculture, pharmaceuticals, detergents, etc.
Decomer Technology is an Estonia-based spinoff company that is developing a novel water-soluble and edible packaging material. The material is plant-based and safe for people and the environment. The eco-friendly polymers could be useful for developing novel products in the fields of the food industry, agriculture, pharmaceuticals, detergents, etc. The company's business model includes selling own products and also licensing the production process to all these industries.
There are a huge number of products that have a very short use lifecycle. The end consumer is only using the product for a few minutes or less, but the material persists for years in nature eventually breaking down into micro-plastics which have unseen consequences for the humanity, wildlife, and the environment. Working backwards from those parameters the Decomer's team created a material that dissolves in water and has natural building blocks, so it is composted and rebuilds the soil.
The technology is tunable for properties beyond just water-solubility. It is possible to change dissolution temperature and speed depending on the application, and also mechanical properties to stretch, be flexible, rigid, etc. For example, detergent pods need to survive in water for 30 seconds so the material could be adjusted to take longer to dissolve, and also be able to withstand the enzymes contained inside the pod. A simpler product is Ramen, where simply need to packaging to survive until thrown in water where it dissolves to release noodles and flavoring with zero waste. These seem like small markets, but there are over 100 billion ramen packets and 20 billion detergent pods used each year globally.
The first real product is called Honeydrops™, a trademark of Decomer Technology OÜ, water-soluble honey packages which make consuming honey in drinks more convenient. The user takes one package, adds it to one's warm drink, lets it melt and can enjoy for example tea without sticky fingers, jars, etc.
The project was granted a budget at the amount of €4,980 and was carried out in the period of 01.02.2017 - 30.06.2017 and is supported by the Innovation Voucher from Enterprise Estonia or EAS. Within 2019 the co-founders are planning to start with large scale production of material and products thereof. The company is going to start with sales in Europe and Asia, specifically, Germany and Japan. According to founders, Japan is a country with high quality and hygiene expectations, so the founders can see that their first product Honeydrops™ would well suit this market. The founders are currently looking for sales contacts, companies who would like to use the eco-friendly material for developing novel products, packaging and also investors to reach large scale production capability.
Majority of the mass production process has already been developed and tested. To move forward with production, the company requires €40,000 to finalise the patent process, to produce the machinery and to scale-up the mass production.