UK government backs Polymateria’s innovative research into biodegradable plastics with two grants

30 November 2018

British-based technology company Polymateria, who have laboratories at Imperial Innovations, provide solutions to convert standard plastic into biodegradable packaging. They have been awarded two separate grants totaling over £1 million for their research by Innovate UK.

The government funds will be used to:

  1. Diversify Polymateria’s commercially available Biotransformation technology into other types of plastic packaging made from PET (Polyethylene terephthalate). PET is used to produce many common plastic products including carbonated drink bottles and meat trays.
  2. Ensure that Polymateria’s technology meets leading standards for composting, including those set by the EU and internationally for home and industrial compostability. 

Polymateria has designed its technology to be compatible with the normal supply chain and manufacturing processes of plastic production. Their Biotransformation technology can be inserted within the plastic with little disruption or on-cost. Once inserted the technology is triggered by a time-controlled mechanism to ensure the plastic biodegrades in the natural environment after its useful life. Their technology uses chemistry to help nature biodegrade what would normally be an inert material, thus reducing fugitive plastic pollution.

The main source of this pollution currently comes from the food packaging sector and so Polymateria has focused its R&D efforts on these applications. The London-based company already has commercial technology to biotransform PP (Polypropylene) used for soup and yoghurt pots and PE (Polyethylene) which is used for fruit packaging and shrink wrap.

One Innovate UK project will translate Polymateria’s current technology into PET-based products through applying a combination of chemistry, biology and polymer engineering. The second project, in partnership with Chemex, will ensure that the Biotransformed plastics meets EU and International standards on home and industrial compostability.

Polymateria’s VP of Innovations Dr Chris Wallis in acknowledging the awards said: to have an expert panel of peers from Govt, Academia & Industry advocate for our Biotransformation technology by awarding us two grants of this size is a great endorsement of our innovative approach to bringing credible and scientifically proven technology to our business, customers and partners. 

Polymateria’s CEO, Niall Dunne said: the grants will allow us to develop the first Biotransformation technology for PET and the first petro-plastic that meets compostability standards. The Biotransformed PET will be exploited initially in the food packaging market, then into other applications such as homecare. This will create a significant business opportunity (Global PET production was 18.8 million tonnes in 2017 and a market worth £40 billion) and will disrupt the biodegradable PET market, setting a new standard in environmentally responsible plastic.

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