By Monika Ghosh and Sharon Lewis This article is the last of a four-part Tech’s Year in Review series reviewing developments across industries in 2020. It discusses the world of healthtech and biotech, foodtech and agritech, and sustainability. This article is the last of a four-part [...]
By Tanisha Lele
Biotech startup to create and commercially retail single-use plastic alternatives
RWDC Industries Limited, a Singapore-based bioplastic startup providing solutions to the world’s single-use plastic crisis, announced yesterday the closing of a US$133 million two-stage Series B funding round.
The investment comes at a time when the need to replace single-use plastic is constantly increasing to meet growing consumer demand for better material choices. Consumers increasingly feel a need for materials that qualify as safer, better for the environment, and enable a sustainable circular economy.
Co-founded in 2015 by CEO Dr. Daniel Carraway and Executive Chairman Roland Wee, RWDC is a biotechnology firm that produces innovative and cost-effective biopolymer material solutions like polyhydroxyalkanoate or PHAs.
PHAs are naturally borne out of the microbial fermentation of plant-based oils or sugars, and are biodegradable as a result. They can be used as substitutes for plastics of various kinds, including straws, utensils, cups, dishes, and lids.
The use of PHAs may have several positive effects on the environment, such as a slowing of climate change due to fewer emissions, better human health, and improved health of our ecosystems, with no endocrine-disrupting chemicals and no harmful micro-plastic waste.
The company claims that it will use their new funding to meet the growing demand for PHAs by expanding the company’s production line to Athens, Georgia. As a firm that supports sustainability, RWDC is repurposing an idle factory originally constructed in the late 1960s to use as its new production facility in Athens, which will bring 200 new jobs to the community there.
“We are grateful and excited to have the support of world-class investors who share our urgent mission of solving the global challenge of single-use plastic,” said CEO Carraway, who is based in Athens, GA.
He added, “This investment will help us significantly increase our production capacity so that we can meet needs of brand owners who want to improve the lives of their customers by offering materials that have a positive effect on human health, while improving environmental stewardship.”
Executive Chairman Wee, based in Singapore, said, “Right now, the COVID-19 pandemic presents an unprecedented crisis, but we also recognize that, for many years, we’ve been headed toward an existential threat to our individual health and our planet due to pervasive and mounting plastic pollution. It must be addressed immediately and with a solution at industrial scale. That’s what RWDC can do.”
This $133 million investment was co-led by Vickers Venture Partners (a global venture capital firm); Flint Hills Resources (a leading energy and resources company); CPV/CAP Pensionskasse Coop (the pension fund of Switzerland’s largest retail company); and International SA (a fund linked to Interogo Holding AG).
Existing investors Eversource Retirement Plan Master Trust (the pension fund of Eversource Energy, a Fortune 500 company); and WI Harper Group (a pioneer of US-Asia cross-border VC investing) were also participants in the fundraising round.
Dr. Finian Tan, Founder and Chairman of Vickers Venture Partners, said, “We believe RWDC has the potential to make an enormous difference in solving the global plastics problem, and we’re proud to continue supporting the company and its leadership.”
Vickers Venture Partners is a global venture capital company focused on early-stage investments in the technological and geographical mega trends of the world. As of March 2020, the firm has received commitments of over US$200 million of their target of US$500 million for their fourth fund, and have started investing from it.
The founders and investors hope that propelling RWDC forward will not only provide the world with highly essential biodegradable solutions to replace plastic, but also uplift economies that have faced a setback due to the COVID-19 pandemic.