“We consider the motion towards plastic is now firmly entrenched worldwide, with many governments performing to scale back or ban the consumption of single-use plastics and companies committing to scale back their plastic footprint,” says Zhaotan Xiao, President (Asia Pacific) at RWDC.
An rising consciousness in regards to the risks of single-use plastic and a ban/ restriction on its use in lots of nations has opened monumental alternatives for startups in addition to enterprise capitalists to develop and promote environmentally-friendly options.
Singapore- and US-based RWDC Industries is one such startup that has lengthy been engaged on growing a biodegradable various. The corporate, which has secured almost US$168 million over its six years of existence from famend VCs equivalent to Vickers Enterprise Companions in addition to the ‘Iron Man’ star Robert Downey Jr., produces medium-chain-length polyhydroxyalkanoate (mcl-PHA) biopolymers which are designed to be used throughout a broad vary of purposes.
On this interview, Xiao, discusses RWDC’s affiliation with Downey, the corporate’s merchandise and future plans.
Since inception, RWDC has raised US$168 million from about seven traders. Why does the corporate want this a lot capital? How a lot of this capital goes into R&D?
There is no such thing as a lack of investor curiosity and monetary assist for our mission to switch single-use plastics.
Virtually all funding raised by us goes in direction of capability development, as there isn’t any lack of demand for PHA. We have to construct bodily factories which are first of its form on the earth; we’re not constructing apps.
Additionally Learn: Biodegradable plastic startup RWDC Industries raises US$22M in recent funding
We can’t disclose the precise quantity going into R&D. RWDC firmly believes within the significance of investing to take care of our technological benefit, and we’re continuously innovating each in our manufacturing processes and within the utilisation of PHA in novel end-product purposes.
How a lot did you increase from Robert Downey’s fund FootPrint Coalition? How did this deal are available in? How will this partnership mutually profit?
We can’t disclose the quantity raised from FootPrint Coalition (a US-based coalition of traders which put money into high-growth, sustainability-focused firms together with in Asia).
We had been launched to FootPrint Coalition (FC) by way of one in every of our institutional traders. FC actually intrigued and enthusiastic about our expertise, and fully aligned with our imaginative and prescient of transitioning the world in direction of bio-based and pure supplies which are in concord with Nature’s regenerative cycles.
Except for capital funding, FC will probably be a particularly useful useful resource for educating the world about the advantages of PHA. They just lately did a superb quick video on this subject, and the current press protection about their funding into RWDC has enormously elevated our profile.
You’ve been engaged on the biodegradable various since 2015. Nevertheless, as per your web site, your merchandise haven’t hit the market but. Why is it taking a very long time for the commercialisation of the product?
PHA has been recognized to mankind for greater than 100 years, however no person had discovered a approach to produce the fabric on an industrial scale. We have now gotten to the place we’re as a result of a long time of labor put in by our Founders. Once more, we’re not constructing an app.
The highway to commercialising new supplies is usually very lengthy (assume Goretex, Teflon and so forth.). The reason being as a result of every part fails on the weakest hyperlink, and we have to have solved each single downside from our shoppers’ perspective for them to undertake the fabric.
We’re very assured that we are actually on the cusp of transitioning the world away from plastics in direction of this way more logical alternative of fabric, as our shoppers are actually capable of efficiently run our PHA materials on their present tools as a “drop-in” substitute of the plastics they at the moment use.
The fruits of efficiently commercialising new supplies are additionally sometimes very huge (assume Goretex, Teflon and so forth).
As per your web site, you’ll goal the Singapore market within the first section by introducing a consuming straw. How are you going to cost the product? Will it’s cheaper than conventional plastic straws?
RWDC is a B2B enterprise. We don’t make the tip merchandise (bottles, cutlery, straws, coated paper, and so forth.) ourselves. We offer PHA within the type of a resin or dispersion, and this is able to be used to supply the end-products on our shoppers’ present machines. Our go-to-market technique is subsequently largely decided along with our shoppers.
Our straws will probably be dearer than conventional plastic provided that the destructive externalities to the setting posed by plastic straws aren’t taken into consideration. We all know that our pricing is suitable to shoppers as a result of we now have already signed offers with massive MNC shoppers.
Moreover, a ban on single-use plastic gadgets together with straws has been or will probably be imposed in lots of nations.
Even in locations the place plastic straws aren’t (but) banned, companies wish to present their environmental consciousness by changing plastic straws with different environmentally pleasant options. Straws make up a tiny a part of total prices for companies, so larger pricing is mostly acceptable.
Our PHA straws are aggressive to different options, together with paper and polylactic acid (PLA) straws. As well as, they’ve a number of benefits in comparison with different options.
Additionally Learn: This Indian startup makes cutlery utilizing sugarcane waste
For instance, our straws are extra practical than paper straws (they don’t flip soggy after some time). They’re additionally biodegradable within the truest sense (i.e., in nature), whereas PLA is just compostable (i.e., solely degrades beneath sure situations), and can take the identical time as common plastic to degrade if leaked into nature.
When will your different merchandise (cutlery, cups, luggage, and so forth.) will probably be out there out there? That are your different key goal markets?
We goal to launch bottles, cutlery and straws in 2021. As well as, we now have made nice progress with shoppers on areas equivalent to coated paper, PHA fibres, injection-moulded articles and so forth. We have now additionally demonstrated our capability to make PHA movies and foam merchandise.
Is there consciousness amongst companies, particularly F&B ones, in regards to the risks of plastic in Singapore?
There may be undoubtedly rising consciousness in regards to the risks of plastic in Singapore. We consider the motion towards plastic is now firmly entrenched worldwide, with many governments performing to scale back or ban consumption of single-use plastics and companies committing to scale back their plastic footprint.
Do you additionally work with the Singapore authorities in its drive towards single-use plastics?
We have now had discussions with the Singapore authorities about the advantages of PHA and the constraints of the three ‘R’s to alter the expansion trajectory of plastic air pollution.
Having stated that, issues about plastic air pollution within the Singapore authorities seem like much less urgent attributable to the truth that the nation incinerates our waste and leverages on the waste-to-energy conversion for energy.
RWDC is actively engaged with the European Fee on their Single-Use Plastics Directive. As a pure polymer that’s not chemically-modified, we consider PHA shouldn’t even be thought of a plastic.
Singapore is far smaller than many different markets on the earth. Why does RWDC need to introduce its first merchandise on this nation?
We’re going to commercialise our first merchandise globally, in collaboration with international model homeowners.
How huge is your complete addressable market (TAM) in Southeast Asia?
PHA is a viable various to plastic (when it comes to performance, versatility and worth), so our TAM is not less than the marketplace for single-use plastics.
In actuality, adoption (particularly in sure purposes) will probably be slowed down by a number of elements, together with the necessity for intensive product trials to make sure feasibility, our capability to extend manufacturing capability to meet up with demand, and pricing.
We have now very aggressive and impressive plans for scaling up. It is a very lengthy journey, and our companions are all absolutely aligned with us when it comes to values and imaginative and prescient.
Do you might have plans to safe further investments quickly?
We count on to lift a brand new spherical within the second half of 2021 or early 2022, to unlock funding for our subsequent section of development — constructing the primary wave of full-scale manufacturing modules within the US and Asia.
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Picture Credit score: RWDC Industries
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