French seaweed startup rethinks bioplastics
December 19, 2016
icolas Sainte-Foie writes for Labiotech.eu about French startup Algopack manufacturing bio-based plastics made from brown algae. Founded by Rémy Lucas in 2010 and managed by David Coti, Algopack hopes to make inroads into the “more virtuous” office supplies market with algal-based plastics, as more than 80% of all office supplies are currently made from plastic.
Algopack, based in Saint-Malo, Brittany, takes advantage of the area’s rich biodiversity, particularly its species of seaweed. Algopack grows and harvests the plants in the Atlantic Ocean with C-weed Aquaculture as a partner. The C-Weed Aquaculture and Algopack project involves the production, at scale, of 500 tons per year of brown algae off the island of Cézembre facing Saint-Malo.
Through a patented process, Algopack has developed two technologies exploiting a particular natural polymer in seaweeds to produce biodegradable granules:
- AlgoPack, made entirely from seaweeds. This type of granule is entirely bio-compostable and biodegrades within 12 weeks in soil and 5 hours in water; its permeability can be adapted according to the product lifecycle. Algopack also works well as a soil fertilizer.
- AlgoBlend, billed as the next generation of bioplastics, is a blend of 50% plastics and 50% algae-based plastics. The process for Algoblend fits into standard industrial processes and represents a 25% energy saving, since the manufacturing temperature is lower than 100% plastic fabrication.
In its pipeline, Algopack is working on other seaweeds, such as Sargassum, coming from the French Caribbean Islands, Martinique and Guadeloupe. For further development, the company works with technological partners and clients, including Europlastiques.
At present, Algopack’s products are 2.5 to 3 times more expensive than conventional, fossil fuel-based plastics, even with the 50% energy gain. The company, however, remains motivated to continue improving the efficiency of the process, as they have research showing that 98% of people would convert to a bio-based product if the prices were equal.