Plastic: Next to the burning of fossil fuels, it represents one of the greatest environmental threats facing the planet.
Researchers estimate that since 1950, more than 8.3 billion metric tons of the stuff has been produced, more than one ton for every person currently on the planet. Once used, much of it is burned. The rest winds up in landfills or in the ocean, where it can take up to five centuries to fully decompose. In the meantime, it poses a threat to wildlife and, through potentially carcinogenic microplastics that enter the food chain, us too.
London-based startup FabricNano is targeting this scourge with a new kind of manufacturing that harnesses the chemical laboratories that exist inside the cells of living organisms, but it does so without the need to actually use living things. Its first product is a precursor for the creation of biodegradable polyester, which FabricNano’s founders think they can produce at a price that will make it competitive with the petroleum-based plastics that are used in everything from water bottles to fast-food trays.
Among those inspired by that vision are actress Emma Watson of Harry Potter fame, Twitter cofounder Biz Stone, and Alexander Moscho, the former chief executive of Bayer. They are part of a $12.5 million investment round in FabricNano, led by London-based venture capital firm Atomico, announced today.
Watson, who played Hermione in the Harry Potter franchise, became a seed investor in FabricNano after being approached by the company on the advice of Atomico and Tania Boler, the founder of Elvie, a startup that makes innovative technology for women, including a breast pump. Boler is also a seed investor in FabricNano. She formerly had roles in several development organizations and at the United Nations cultural organization Unesco. Watson is currently the United Nations Women Goodwill Ambassador and is interested in environmental causes.