12 Aug 2019

Start-up company funded for biodegradable alternative to replace microplastics in cosmetics and toiletries

Janet Scott, Davide Mattia and Giovanna Laudisio of Naturbeads. Credit: Naturbeads

Naturbeads, a start-up company based at the University of Bath, is working with companies to replace microplastics in products with biodegradable microbeads made from cellulose.

Whilst plastic microbeads were recently banned in the UK from rinse-off products, they are still found in many other personal care products such as suncream and cosmetics.

The technology to create the cellulose microbeads was developed at the University of Bath by Professors Janet Scott and Davide Mattia from the Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies in 2017.

They co-funded spin-out company Naturbeads in 2018 to commercialise the technology together with Dr. Giovanna Laudisio, CEO of the company.

Through the Plastic Research and Innovation Fund, Naturbeads has now been awarded funding by a partnership between UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and Sky Ocean Ventures (SOV).

The biodegradable microbeads are made using a solution of cellulose, which is forced through tiny holes in a tubular membrane, creating spherical droplets of the solution that are washed away from the membrane using vegetable oil. The beads are then collected, set and separated from the oil before use.

The prototype rig in this project will be used to produce kilogram-scale samples of cellulose microbeads. These will be sampled to companies in the personal care and cosmetic industry to be tested in formulations.

Professor Davide Mattia, from the Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies at the University of Bath and co-founder of Naturbeads, said: "Our microbeads are produced using cellulose, the most abundant bio-material on Earth, and what plants and trees are made of.”

"We are excited to see our technology deployed commercially and to contribute to reducing plastic pollution in our oceans."

Giovanna Laudisio, Naturbeads CEO and co-founder, said: "We are thrilled to start our first project thanks to an Innovate UK grant and the support of an investor like Sky Ocean Ventures that shares our mission of reducing plastic pollution and understands the challenges of a deep tech start-up like Naturbeads."
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