Is it possible to make thermoplastic polyurethane made from post-consumer polyethylene waste? According to a California start-up called Novoloop it most certainly is - and they’ve got the TPU to prove it.
Novoloop had developed a proprietary process called ATOD - short for Accelerated Thermal Oxidative Decomposition - that breaks down polyethylene, the most widely used plastic today, into chemical building blocks that can be synthesised into high-value products. ATOD is a chemical process that enables the upcycling of the carbon content found in polyethylene waste that is too low value for material recovery facilities to bale and sell.
The current fate of these plastics is to end up in landfills or incinerators. For Novoloop, however, these products are a resource, from which new near-virgin quality products can be made.
The first of these is Oistre, a thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) for use in high-performance applications such as footwear, apparel, sporting goods, automotive, and electronics. According to Novoloop, Oistre is the first TPU made from post-consumer polyethylene waste that matches the performance characteristics of virgin TPUs. At the same time, Oistre's carbon footprint is up to 46% smaller than conventional TPUs.
It’s an achievement that is starting to draw attention. Novoloop has raised $11 million in Series A financing led by Envisioning Partners with participation from Valo Ventures and Bemis Associates; earlier investors who joined the round included SOSV, Mistletoe, and TIME Ventures. The company has also entered into a new partnership with Bemis Associates, a company specialised in apparel bonding solutions such as seam tapes. Bemis has a fundamental belief in its corporate responsibility to commit to environmental sustainability through the reduction of its emissions across global operations. One approach, which they believe is critical to achieving their reduction targets, is through participating in both the funding and R&D of new sustainable technologies.