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Ecoinno, a Hong Kong-based company producing sustainable packaging made from plant fibres, has attracted US$6 million in a series A1 funding round led by two Alibaba funds. The startup says it will use the new capital to scale up production of its proprietary technology, ramp up research and development and increase consumer awareness about green alternatives.
“This new funding puts us solidly on the first step towards realising our vision of creating a sustainable, circular economy by delivering [Ecoinno’s] products to our environmentally focused clients,” said Chen in an official statement.
Ecoinno has previously received grant money from the Innovation & Technology Commission in Hong Kong, and participated in an incubator program run by the Hong Kong Science & Technology Parks. Its latest funding round brings the startup’s total funding to US$8.8 million.
Founded in 2015 by CEO George Chen and COO Vivian Chang, Ecoinno’s proprietary biocomposite packaging is made from a “green composite material” (GCM), and its main application is in the consumer packaging industry. Its mission is to offer not only an alternative to petroleum-based plastics but bioplastics as well, many of which are still manufactured using non-naturally occurring polymers. This means that intensive industrial processes are still required to produce some types of bioplastics.
By contrast, Ecoinno’s patented GCM technology is produced using plant fibres derived from sugarcane and bamboo, which is “abundant, renewable and [a] naturally occuring polymer on earth,” according to the company, and is completely biodegradable within 75 days.
Because of its heat tolerant qualities, GCM is particularly suited to replace food containers for both freezing or reheating. It is also water and oil-resistant. It recently passed the United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA) standards for being toxin-free as well, which further bolsters its suitability for large-scale use in the food packaging industry.
According to investors, the solution presented by Ecoinno is ever more relevant as more and more Asian consumers become aware of the severe plastic pollution crisis. Edward Liu, partner at the group that manages Alibaba’s Taiwan Entrepreneurs Fund II, WI Harper Group, said that the pressure for companies to reduce single-use plastics amounts to a major “paradigm shift.”
Ecoinno’s solution is especially relevant now, as more people rely on takeaway and delivery services during the coronavirus pandemic. In the past months, the food delivery industry in Hong Kong has tried to tackle the problem by signing on plastic-free pledges, prompting more businesses to seek out more eco-friendly options.
Every year, the world produces 380 million tonnes of plastic. Most does not end up being recycled, and instead is either landfilled or left to pollute our oceans. Previous studies on plastic pollution have found microplastics in everything from rainwater to sea salt.
With the lack of regulation and enthusiastic governments, many startups across Asia, like Ecoinno, are developing their own solutions to fight plastic waste. Young Filipino scientist Denxybel Montinola, for instance, created an ingenious water soluble plastic with two biopolymers, pectin and carrageenan found in locally abundant mango peels and seaweed.
Lead image courtesy of Ecoinno.