A New York-based material technology company clinched $6 million in venture capital and aims to boost manufacturing of its flagship biodegradable straw in hopes of replacing single-use plastic straws.
Loliware LLC will use the funds, which are led by venture firm Hatzimemos Libby, to meet demand for it’s “Straw of the Future,” a seaweed-based, biodegradable straw the company unveiled in 2019 in an effort to replace billions of single-use plastic straws used annually worldwide, a Jan. 19 release states.
Loliware’s straw “looks, feels and acts like plastic” but is made from plant-based, food-grade materials and are designed to compost naturally. The straw offers an environmentally friendly solution without compromising or shifting consumer behavior and experience, according to the statement.
The company hopes to release a line of new products out of it's single manufacturing system including a cocktail straw, a u-shaped straw and utensils in 2020 and more to come in the future, said CEO Chelsea Fawn Briganti in an interview with Plastics News.
"We have completely designed the polymer material along with an integrated manufacturing system," she said. "We're the only ones who have the line, but we aren't the end manufacturing unit."
Briganti said she hopes to scale up manufacturing through companies looking to invest in Loliware's innovative materials and technology.
Oliver Libby, a managing partner at Hatzimemos Libby, said in the statement the investment in Loliware is one that’s good for consumers, the planet and investors.
“There’s an inherent belief that there are always trade-offs with sustainable products when in actuality they can simply be better for people and better for the planet,” he said in the release.
The "designed to disappear" straw can withstand more than 18 hours of continuous use that starts to degrade once composted, according to the company's website.
“The status quo — that single-use products should be ‘built to last’ — is destroying our planet. Seaweed is a miracle replacement waiting for us,” Briganti said.
Seaweed around the globe grows rapidly in large “aquatic forests” — up to nearly 10 feet per day — giving it an advantage over petroleum, corn or tree-based products, she said. The CO2-catching plant helps form strong carbon sinks that contribute to growth and the polymer processing.
Loliware initially debuted an edible cup on ABC's "Shark Tank" in 2015, but has since moved away from edible materials toward a true replacement for standard plastic to compete directly against paper and other polylactic acid-based products.
Their material can be composted both at home and industrially.
"That's the gold standard. When composting some PLA products, you look at the soil and it still has chunks of PLA, it's better than [traditional] plastic but there's still the issue," Briganti said. "[Loliware's] straws will break down completely, just like a food product."
The straw wasn't designed to be eaten, but to be used and then composted at the end of its life and be "carbon negative."