This transparent, resistant material is degradable in marine, soil, and home-composting environments – and it is also edible!
Eutopia was intrigued by this startup, so we talked to the founders of FlexSea, Carlo, and Thibaut, about their seaweed-derived bioplastic material.
How did FlexSea get its name?
” FlexSea’s name is the result of merging what we do with how we do it, which after all is what makes us unique and sets us apart. Flex comes from the flexible plastic packaging that we develop, whilst Sea is both where we source our raw material, and the raw material itself, seaweed. “
What’s your story?
” Deep down always wanting to be an entrepreneur, I never wanted to be a “number” in a large organization. I’ve always wanted to make a difference and to take full responsibility for what I do, whether good or bad. Seeing the world being more and more flooded by plastic made me “jump” on this adventure, making me want to truly make a difference in this field. I have always been passionate about sustainability, and this project really allows me to carve my own path whilst making a difference in a field that I truly care about and a mission I deeply believe in – reduce the amount of plastic we use every day. While my background is mainly in business, innovation, and entrepreneurship, I have always been interested in organic chemistry but never made it a formal area of study. Hence, after a year of brainstorming and early trials of prototypes in my kitchen, I reached out to my old friend Thibaut whom I knew just finished his Master’s in materials engineering. “
” After 8 months of applying to jobs in biomaterials companies, and startups, I was sick of waking up every morning with a diploma and a skill set that was not put to good use. Carlo reached out to me on a Sunday morning 5 months ago and I immediately accepted the offer. To be honest, a project in biomaterials, in a startup and with a good dose of risk and freedom of thinking was exactly what I was waiting for! I delved into papers about the chemistry behind the project, spent day and night learning from literature and business reports, and a few weeks later, FlexSea was born, we incorporated on the 27th of April 2021. The rest is history, moving from Carlo’s kitchen-lab to Thibaut’s kitchen-lab, and now to a living room-lab, the venture is growing at full-speed thanks to the support of potential customers, NGO’s and our selection to the MassChallenge Switzerland Food systems accelerator which will bring us many networking opportunities with corporates, mentors and investors. “
” We can make plastic without the plastic problems; Now that’s sexy, that’s Flexsea! “
Where did the idea come from?
” I went back home at the beginning of the first lockdown and we were pushed to buy groceries online. I soon realized with disgust the staggering amount of plastic packaging in home-delivered orders and thought of potential solutions to that. I started doing my research on what different types of plastics are used in the packaging industry and what was being done to this date to fight the issue. To my great surprise, I soon realized the inefficiency of the recycling system and the deep flaws of current ‘bioplastics’. On one hand, only 7% of plastics are actually recycled, which produce waste and downgrade the material quality irreversibly; while on the other hand, the most widely used bioplastic today, PLA, is fallaciously claimed ‘biodegradable’ (only in industrial conditions under high temperatures and with specific microorganisms) and requires the culture of arable land, fresh water, pesticides, and fertilizer to produce the starch is it derived from, not to mention the direct competition with food production, PLA being derived from food crops such as corn or sugarcane. “
” I wanted to improve the situation and I figured that if ‘land plants could be used for plastic making, then why not ‘water-plants… seaweed!. Nothing like this was actively on the market and only a few relatively early-stage startups were digging in that direction, more or less successfully, with more or less relevant teams. “
” With a solid grasp of the business opportunity and an understanding of the current barriers to the project, I gave myself the goal to make this idea a reality and spent the following year building a business model, prototype, and identity to the project I subsequently named FlexSea. “