Packaging that degrades without the need for recycling or composting. This is the product that partly explains the US$30 million round that the Chilean company Biolements recently announced in a financing led by the Brazilian firm BTG Pactual. The company, whose clients include MercadoLibre, Falabella and Farmacias Guadalajara, operates in Chile, Mexico and is opening in Brazil. Ignacio Parada da Fonseca, CEO, answered Contxto’s questionnaire.
What problem does your startup solve?
It solves the problem of waste-related pollution. We give our customers the possibility of wrapping and delivering their products in biodegradable packaging. Unlike traditional plastic, which takes around 400 years to degrade, it takes between six and twenty months to do so. The added value of our packaging is that it degrades naturally under any circumstances (in contact with air, soil, water, and at any temperature) without human intervention. In other words: no need for recycling or composting.
Our formula, developed from the main component called BioE-8 Resin, is the first and only one in Latin America designed by and for our region. Because in our continent, we have a great problem with the total amount of waste we generate—120,128 tons of waste per day in Mexico alone—only 10% is composted or recycled. The rest ends up in landfills that, of course, contaminate everyone’s water and soil. That’s why our solution is so revolutionary: it doesn’t require you to do anything with it so that it degrades and doesn’t affect the environment; each packaging degrades on its own.
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How is it different from others who have tried this idea before?
The recyclable or compostable packaging you find on the market is different because it requires recycling or composting — human intervention—to degrade. BioE-8 Resin is composed of bio-based material (made from 100% natural materials), renewable and biodegradable. In other words, it is a bio-based biopolymer capable of integrating into the circular economy that returns to nature as food and nutrients for the environment regardless of degradation conditions. But we didn’t get here alone: we have achieved this marvel of a product thanks to the collaboration with more than 17 universities that managed to evolve what started as BioE-1 Resin in 2016 to what it is today, thanks to the constant drive for innovation and development that we have as a premise of our brand.
What achievement of your company are you most proud of?
In addition to having developed a material that solves a major problem of the Latin American reality for different environmental conditions, which is the purpose and the heart of our brand, at the end of the year, we raised US$30 million in an investment round and became the first brand to achieve this in the entire region. If we continue to do things as well as we have been, we can become the company that will guide many others toward the path of sustainability needed in our region.
A Latin American startup you admire and why.
There are two that I admire a lot: Betterfly and NotCo, not only because they are both Chilean but also because of the purposes they pursue. The way they have developed and each step they have taken to grow, expand and become who they are today is what makes me admire them the most.
What is the next step for the company?
With such an important investment, our business plan is very robust. In our opinion, that happens because the objectives were clear: to consolidate what we have (it is easier to lose a customer than to win one, and that is why we needed to improve our equipment) and, on the other hand, not to stay with what we have. We are developing industrial packaging specifically for the food area; we achieved all the certifications to be able to be an alternative to packing dairy products, meats, etc. On the other hand, we are opening in Brazil, which is also a very relevant objective for the company. So Mexico and Brazil will be our focus in the next two or three years. Finally, the R&D area is very relevant, we want to go to more rigid packaging, and we also need to improve our polymers, etc.
Responses were slightly edited for length and clarity.
Main image: Ignacio Parada da Fonseca, CEO of Bioelements (Credit: Bioelements)
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