The Circularity Challenge is a six-month accelerator program designed to advance innovative solutions to enable a circular economy. The five participants are disrupting the plastics, energy storage, and recycling value chains. The Circularity Challenge is run by Greentown Launch—Greentown Labs’ internal accelerator—and BASF, and supported by Stanley Black & Decker.
Multilayer plastics—think bubble wrap, meat packaging, and other pre-sealed food packaging—are difficult to recycle, which means they end up in landfills or incinerators. But Interface Polymers’ additive addresses the recycling roadblock.
“What we enable is people to blend different polymers together,” says Simon Waddington, Interface Polymers’ business development director, explaining that this blending is necessary to recycle multilayer plastics for reuse. “Traditionally, making blends of polymers is very difficult, because different polymers don’t like each other—they form different phases and very weak materials. So what we do is act as an interface between the two different polymers and allow you to blend them very easily together, in a very efficient way.”
Interface Polymers’ technology tackles polypropylene and polyethylene, the two main polyolefins (a class of polymers). Seven to eight million tons of these polymers are used annually, according to Waddington.
The polymer additive is added to an existing product when it comes time for recycling, then stays in the plastic as it’s reused—making it more easily recyclable at the end of its second life.
The 12-person company, based in Loughborough, England, was founded by researchers at the University of Warwick who kickstarted Interface Polymers with a grant from the UK government. Interface Polymers is currently conducting industrial trials of its technology.
Waddington says the Circularity Challenge has helped Interface Polymers learn how to find the right person to speak to within a large corporation, adding that the team has received helpful advice on its pitch deck during the accelerator.
“The mentors have been very helpful,” Waddington says. “The exposure to BASF has been excellent—we’ve had a lot of people come to us from different parts of BASF expressing interest, so that’s been very, very valuable.”
During the next year, Interface Polymers plans to complete successful trials and launch commercial sales.
Greentown Labs is a community of bold, passionate entrepreneurs creating solutions for today’s biggest climate and environmental challenges. Located in Somerville, Mass., Greentown Labs is the largest cleantech incubator in North America, operating a 100,000 sq. ft. campus comprised of prototyping and wet lab space, shared office space, a machine shop, electronics lab, and a curated suite of programs and resources. Greentown Labs is home to more than 100 startups and has supported more than 250 since its inception.