Cruz Foam, and professional surfer Zak Noyle, are combating plastic air pollution.
Greater than 100 cities within the US have put ordinances in place limiting or flatly banning using disposable styrofoam, particularly by eating places and for delivery meals and different merchandise. Within the state of California alone, 97 cities or counties have a partial or full ban on single-use styrofoam, with one other one slated to take impact in Los Angeles County this Might.
In the meantime, firms that ship or promote fragile items, meals or medical provides that want to remain chilly throughout delivery nonetheless want supplies with the light-weight, insulating qualities and manufacturability of styrofoam.
That is the place startup Cruz Foam is available in. Based in 2017 by CEO John Felts and CTO Marco Rolandi the startup, which workers about 30 full-time immediately, has created a substitute for expanded polystyrene, higher recognized by its commerce identify styrofoam.
Cruz Foam is comprised of naturally occurring supplies together with chitin (pronounced like “kite-in”) together with starches and fibers diverted from agricultural waste streams. Chitin is a polymer contained within the shells of shrimp and different crustaceans, in addition to insect exoskeletons. It is biodegradable and customarily protected for animals to eat.
Against this, conventional styrofoam is made utilizing heavy chemical compounds, degrades slowly, and proves dangerous when it crumbles and accumulates in our oceans, including to micro-plastics air pollution.
In response to wildlife conservation researchers at Fauna & Flora Worldwide, when marine life ingests styrofoam it might probably “trigger a spread of issues akin to digestive obstructions, a false sense of fullness that may result in hunger, and diminished fertility.” Moreover that, styrofoam merchandise are normally handled with flame retardants and may take in different pollution from water round them, growing the menace to any wildlife that eats or lives amid the discarded styrofoam.
Cruz Foam CEO and cofounder John Felts says that he and CTO Marco Rolandi bonded throughout their graduate research in supplies science over a love of the ocean, browsing and a want to take pleasure in nature with out inflicting any hurt to it.
Cruz Foam CTO Marco Rolandi and CEO John Felts
They primarily based their startup in Santa Cruz, California — a metropolis recognized for its beautiful seashores, boardwalk, surf tradition and elephant seals, and used the identify of town for his or her startup.
For about two years, they targeted their efforts within the lab on creating a sort of foam from chitin that might function the core of a molded surfboard. Chitin was already referred to as a promising bioplastic, however it was sometimes used to create bioplastic movies and never a lot puffy foams, Felts remembers.
As they tinkered and examined, they realized they might make a broader influence on ocean well being in the event that they addressed a bigger market than surfboards. They shifted their consideration to packaging.
Since then, Cruz Foam has developed a foam pellet from pure supplies which will be extruded and formed into a variety of packaging supplies and containers on the identical equipment that is in place in factories making conventional styrofoam merchandise immediately.
On Wednesday, Cruz Foam formally launched its new line of delivery merchandise together with:
A foam and paper wrap that may substitute bubble wrap or styrofoam peanutsA foam-padded mailerFoam coolers that may defend and preserve contemporary and frozen objects coldFoam merchandise that defend massive objects like furnishings.
All of its new packaging merchandise are “curbside recyclable,” and compostable, mentioned Felts.
Cruz Foam developed a styrofoam different that will not hurt marine life or add to plastic air pollution within the ocean.
The froth dissolves in a bathtub of water and will be poured over a garden or backyard to soundly add some nitrogen again into the soil, Felts mentioned. And it is protected in case your canine, or your fish, eats any of the froth.
To finance its progress to date, Cruz Foam bought $2 million in grants from the Nationwide Science Basis to develop supplies and manufacturing processes. The startup has additionally raised simply over $25 million in enterprise funding from local weather tech and science-focused traders together with At One Ventures, Ashton Kutcher and his local weather fund Sound Waves, Helena Group, Regeneration VC and others.
At One founding companion Tom Chi mentioned that his agency wished to again firms making a distinction to ocean well being. They regarded into “closed loop plastic recycling,” the place firms take again the packaging that they make and recycle it, however the unit economics there do not work due to the excessive value of “reverse logistics and post-consumer materials processing.”
Cruz Foam’s method, Chi mentioned, “solves the issue through the use of earth-compatible supplies within the first place, however does so in a means that may be immediately cost-competitive with virgin foam manufacturing.”
The startup has simply kicked off a partnership with North Carolina-based Atlantic Packaging to deliver its sustainable foam merchandise to a variety of grocers and retailers. And Cruz Foam expects to maneuver into its first part of high-volume manufacturing by mid-year 2023, Felts advised CNBC.
Relating to new merchandise, Felts acknowledged there’s an enormous quantity of demand on the market for disposable insulating espresso cups and takeout containers. However the focus for his firm this yr will stay on e-commerce, delivery and defending every little thing from automotive elements and medical provides to meal kits.
The pandemic has juiced e-commerce and delivery demand, Felts mentioned, however many companies are simply now determining tips on how to ship objects they make or promote on to houses, reasonably than to grocers or retailers, and that features rethinking their packaging finish to finish.