TripleW transforms food waste into bioplastic

TripleW plant credit: Wim Cohet
TripleW plant credit: Wim Cohet

The Israeli startup converts food waste into lactic acid.

When he was still at the Weizmann Institute of Science Amir Oranim was thinking how he could make the world a better place. When he worked in business development at the Weizmann Institute he came across the concept of bioplastic - plastic produced from environmentally friendly materials and together with a childhood friend Adv. Tal Shapira, they decided to take the plunge. They founded TripleW, which converts food waste into lactic acid - Shapira is CEO and Oranim is COO. This acid is used among other things in cleaning products and cosmetics, and biodegradable plastic can even be produced from it, representing an alternative to plastic based on oil.

Shapira says, "This acid is usually produced from food ingredients, for example corn and sugar cane, and this involves high costs and also takes time. Our process cuts the production cost of bioplastic by 30% or more. We base the acid on waste that would otherwise be thrown into the household trash, transported to landfill sites and left for years. In this way, we actually achieve a triple victory. We use food waste, we produce plastic and do so in an environmentally friendly holistic process, which cuts carbon emissions. Today, 80% of waste in Israel is sent to landfill and it is piling up."

So how do they do it? After collecting the food waste, which includes, among other things, leftover fruits, vegetables and other food products, it goes through a fermentation process with the help of bacteria that break down the organic matter and produce lactic acid as a byproduct. This process includes all kinds of chemical manipulations, among other things to ensure maximum efficiency of the process and to leave a low ecological footprint.

The lactic acid obtained undergoes distillation and cleaning, and from there it is already suitable for various industrial uses in a range of fields. In the food industry, for example, it is used as a flavor additive and preservative. In the cosmetics and toiletries industry, it can be used as a moisturizer and conditioner and in the medical industry it is used to produce medicines and other products. But the main benefit is the fact that the acid is a building block for the production of biodegradable bioplastic (PLA).

Today the company is already in advanced processes, but still has a way to go. "We have an advanced pilot plant in Belgium, and we have the ability to treat dozens of tons of waste per day and produce dozens of tons of lactic acid per year. In 2025, we will also start sales."

TripleW's product can also enable factories that use today's food waste to manufacture tomorrow's food packaging. "A bakery that has a significant waste stream, can take it and produce bags for packaging the fresh baked goods. You can use all the food waste and by-products of a food factory to turn them into packaging products for the factory and put them into the supply chain.

"The company also obtains the waste from similar factories in the field. "For example, we go to a factory that produces biogas to produce gas from waste, ask it for the waste, and produce the PLA from it, and return the remaining by-products to it so that it can produce the biogas from it. In this way, it produces from the waste both biogas, which competes in the energy market, and a new and significant revenue stream. The income from each ton of bioplastic production is five times higher than the production of biogas, so it pays off for them as well." At the same time, in 2023, the company launched a range of cleaning products through Belgian cleaning products giant Ecover.

"We understood that the vision could be realized

As well as the pilot in Belgium, TripleW is in the midst of a process to build new production facilities in the country, which is expected to significantly increase its production volume. Shapira estimates that towards the second quarter of 2026, they will start working. "Our aim is to go from handling ten tons of waste a day to 160 tons of waste a day," he explains, adding that they aim to "sell the product to anyone who buys lactic acid".

The first investor in the company was the Hutchison Group together with private investors led by angel Eddie Shalev and serial investor Motti Kirschenbaum. The company has raised $52 million to date. "In our mindset, we understood from day one that the company should stand on its own and not rely on subsidies and grants. When we saw the results and realized that it was a vision that could be realized, and the company could stand on its own, we set off."

Published by Globes, Israel business news - - on June 6, 2024.

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2024.

TripleW plant credit: Wim Cohet
TripleW plant credit: Wim Cohet
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