Writing on environmental news website, Business Green, Xampla CEO Simon Hombersley argues that the UN process for developing a global plastics treaty is at risk of getting hijacked by those who regard recycling as the starting point in the battle against plastic pollution.
“If the plastics treaty enshrines the status quo as a global norm, it will fail in its own objectives,” he writes. “The only solution to plastic pollution is a plastic that doesn’t pollute.”
Xampla is thrilled to announce that it has been named as a finalist for the Sustainable Tech Business Award at Business Leader’s Go:Tech Awards 2022.
The judging panel considered hundreds of entries before narrowing down the finalists who represent the UK’s top technology pioneers and innovators. Xampla has been shortlisted in recognition of our breakthrough plant protein polymer that functions as a completely natural alternative to single-use plastic and our international team of industry experts and scientists.
Leading branded soft drinks business, Britvic is joining forces with University of Cambridge-backed tech company Xampla in a £1m packaging innovation partnership.
After 15 years of Cambridge research, Xampla has developed the world’s first plant protein material for commercial use. This revolutionary material uses pea protein to make microscopic capsules that protect vitamins within liquid, stopping them from being broken down by sunlight.
Xampla’s work has seen the company secure £1million in funding from the UK Government’s innovation agency, Innovate UK, to scale up the technology and material processing.
The innovation is critical to delivering drinks fortified with vitamins in clear plastic bottles. Clear plastic bottles are considered a positive by consumers, with Britvic’s research showing that people are 40% more likely to recycle clear bottles over coloured ones. However, the downside of clear bottles is that they let more UV rays in, losing the necessary protection for vitamin D.
Simon Hombersley, CEO of Xampla, said:“We are delighted to be partnering with Britvic to deliver innovation that will revolutionise the drinks industry and it is extremely exciting to see what our material can do at scale. Xampla works with businesses to help solve their biggest problems while also enabling customers to meet their sustainability goals.
“Britvic has a proud history of fortifying its products with vitamins and seeking sustainability in its packaging. Our partnership is about helping to do both even more effectively. We can’t wait to get started.”
Meanwhile, leading Irish squash brand MiWadi 0% Sugar contains vitamins B, D and zinc and children’s favourite Fruit Shoot has been fortified with multivitamins since 2016. Added vitamins C and D help support the immune system and the growth of strong bones, while B vitamins contribute to energy release.
Sarah Webster, Director of Sustainable Business at Britvic, said: “Our work with Xampla supports our Healthier People, Healthier Planet strategy.
“By agreeing this £1m partnership with each other, we have shown the power of collaboration between established players and cutting-edge innovators to deliver Healthier People and Healthier Planet.
“Xampla technology has the makings of a ‘win-win’, enabling delivery of greater nutritional value in the drinks people love, while ensuring that more products can come to market in clear, recyclable bottles.”
Britvic has a long history of fortifying drinks with vitamins. The FTSE 250 company started life in 1845 as The British Vitamin Product Company, with a mission to provide customers with an affordable source of nutrition. The company is committed to a programme to reduce unnecessary plastic and is working with Xampla through an Innovate UK-backed grant to develop new formats for delivery of soft drinks and nutrients within drinks.
News of the Britvic partnership follows a successful Xampla world first product launch with meal kit manufacturer Gousto last year, where Xampla created an edible film to be used as wrapping for stock cubes. The trial kits – for making an Indian Spiced Carrot & Lentil soup recipe – sold out within one hour of going on sale.
CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY-backed Xampla has launched a partnership with Croda International Plc, the multinational company which uses smart science to create high performance ingredients and technologies that improve livesTM.
The alliance will bring natural replacements for microplastics to the seed coating industry through a £640,000 project trial of Xampla’s plastic-free seed coatings, backed by the UK government and the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB).
Seed coatings are used in agriculture to protect seeds from pests and diseases and increase germination, helping increase crop yield with minimal use of additional plant protection products. However, some seed coatings rely on petroleum-derived polymers, which are not fully degradable in agricultural soils. This innovative trial will see the development of next generation microplastic-free seed coatings that are fully biodegradable.
Through its Seed Enhancement specialists Incotec, Croda has already established itself as an industry leader in rolling out microplastic-free replacements for traditional seed coatings, including sunflower, corn, and vegetable seeds. Their partnership with Xampla now paves the way for completely natural, coatings that leave no residue and disappear without trace as seeds grow.
This collaboration also takes Croda one step closer to achieving its ambition to be Land Positive, specifically enhancing the company’s focus on using crop science innovation to support crop and seed enhancement to mitigate the impact of a changing climate and land degradation.
Expected to take a year to complete, the trial will see Xampla’s technology protect and enhance soil health. Xampla-coated seeds will give farmers all the productivity benefits associated with seed coatings without the risks of microplastic pollution.
The partnership will also help future-proof the seed coating industry, by offering a solution which is compliant with a microplastic ban across Europe, proposed by the European Chemicals Agency, which – if adopted – will be introduced by 2027.
Chaired by Bill Clinton’s White House Climate Change Adviser, Jeff Seabright, and run by leading tech entrepreneur Simon Hombersley, Xampla is producing a wide-range of plant protein-based products to replace conventional plastics.
Beyond the seed coating industry, their natural polymer technology can be used to replace non-recyclable thin plastic films, as a substitute for microcapsules containing scent in fabric softeners, shower gels and soaps, to encapsulate nutrients such as Vitamin D in beverages, and to replace the polluting ‘soluble’ wrappings used on dishwasher tablets.
Xampla Chief Executive Simon Hombersley said:
“Working with Croda International is an enormous opportunity to show how we can deploy our entirely natural replacement for traditional seed coatings that often contain microplastics.
“Croda has been working on this problem for some years, seeking to reduce the impact of microplastic on agricultural soils, and not without success. It is by working with big hitters of this kind that we can really move the market and bring about change quickly.”
Erik-Jan Bartels, Managing Director of the Incotec Seed Enhancement business at Croda International plc added,
“We are excited to be working with Xampla on this development. Our Purpose is to use Smart science to improve livesTM, and this project does exactly that.
“Microplastics in agriculture in total account for 10% of the world’s microplastics problem, and within that seed coatings account for 1% but that makes it no less important to change the industry, as we have been doing now for some time.
“Seed coatings are a high-growth part of our business and we are determined that growth should come from sustainable, plant-based alternatives.”
CREATOR of natural alternatives to single-use plastic, Xampla, has expanded its expert team with the addition of seven new hires and has opened a new Cambridge laboratory.
Xampla acquired the additional lab in early November 2021 to enable each of its new customer projects to expand in a dedicated space, and to increase capacity for its team of cutting edge scientists.
The facility features specialist analytical equipment for further developing Xampla’s world-first plant protein-based films, and for creating film products in applications such as dishwasher tablets.
Xampla’s plant protein-based material has been developed through more than 15 years’ research at the University of Cambridge. The certified B-Corp has created a world-first “natural polymer” material – a flexible, strong, edible replacement for single-use plastic.
Audrey Caspar, a Polymer Chemist, joins Xampla after more than three years at Unilever where she managed technical workstreams for Cornetto ice-creams including packaging, formulation and process design. An expert in developing consumer facing products and claims, Audrey will lead on the planning, design and execution of Xampla’s food ingredient R&D projects as Product Development Manager. She gained her MSci in Chemistry Engineering and Polymer Chemistry at the University Lyon in 2012.
Huafu Wang joins Xampla as Senior Analytical Chemist from his role as a Technical Consultant at Reading Scientific Services. He has worked across the food and beverage, FMCG and environmental industries. Huafu leads the use of the gas chromatography equipment for fragrance analysis and leads Xampla’s fragrance microcapsule stability studies. He also supports the team with sensory performance testing.
Brett Harding moves from Hexcel, where he supported new product development for epoxy adhesives and resin systems. As Application Scientist at Xampla, Harding will be responsible for supporting the Research and Development team in creating natural polymer resins for the company’s pioneering seed coatings project.
Xampla also expands its commercial team with the hire of Sonia Tedeku as Marketing and Communications Manager to support the firm as it launches new products. Sonia moves after three years at Cambridge Commodities, where she worked within the food and beverage industry on bringing a range of Vitamin formulations and blends to market. She joins Head of Marketing and Communications, Katrina Curl, who started with Xampla last year and brings extensive experience from leading London agencies at setting strategies for major brands including Unilever, Britvic and Canon.
Edyta Marek joins as Senior Administrator with a wealth of experience supporting teams. Phoebe Williams and James Ravenscroft join the lab team as a Research Assistant and Project Assistant respectively.
With these new appointments, Xampla’s expert team has grown from its first appointment in 2020 to 27 employees today.
Simon Hombersley, CEO at Xampla, said “As our amazing team grows so does our business. By working directly with big household brands, we expect to see Xampla’s technology in the hands of more and more consumers this year.
“Everyone at Xampla is bound together by a common commitment to make a plastic that doesn’t pollute: one that can be grown from local feedstocks, used locally and composted back to soil locally. We are making that dream a reality every day.”
NEW POLLING reveals that 49 percent of UK adults will make a New Year’s resolution to use less plastic in 2022.
After a Christmas full of plastic, 73 percent of consumers want more opportunity to buy food that is wrapped in alternatives next year. But only 14 percent say they are ‘definitely’ clear which alternatives to plastic are really sustainable.
The surveys were commissioned by Cambridge-based Xampla, which is making the world’s first plant protein alternative to plastic for commercial use. The certified B Corporation’s mission is to reduce plastic pollution, and it will deploy its “natural polymer” replacement to plastic across the food and home cleaning products sector in the coming year.
The home-grown British technology is already in households across the United Kingdom, following Gousto’s use of Xampla edible film to wrap its stock cubes in November. If the material were used in all the company’s meal kits, 17 tonnes of single use plastic would be replaced annually.
With ten million turkeys consumed each Christmas in the UK, this natural material could also replace the plastic wrappings around meat and vegetables, doing away with hundreds of thousands of tonnes of unrecyclable plastic films.
Xampla CEO Simon Hombersley said:
“The sheer scale of plastic use this Christmas reminds us that consumers and brands alike need alternatives which can match the performance of plastic, without the harmful effects.
“It is so encouraging to see half of those we surveyed saying they will make a New Year’s resolution to use less plastic, but it is up to government and the big brands to help people follow through.
“By moving away from plastic towards the natural polymers we have created, there is a real opportunity next year and in the coming years to say goodbye to plastic with a credible alternative.”
Xampla’s ‘plastic which doesn’t pollute’ started in development 15 years ago at the University of Cambridge, with scientists asking “how does a spider make silk”. Silk is a protein material five times stronger than steel, but which occurs naturally and breaks down naturally. The fast-growing British start-up has since successfully engineered polymers found in nature to emulate spider silk, and demonstrated the first rolls of its alternative to plastic film coming off production lines in 2021.
In a separate survey, 9 in 10 expert buyers at leading consumer brands said they believed it was important for their companies to transition away from conventional plastic. However, 60 percent are confused by the sustainability claims of packaging solutions and the same proportion do not know where to find trustworthy alternatives.
Polling also shows that 69 percent of the public prefer sustainable plastic alternatives to relying on recycling, endorsing the Prime Minister’s recent statement that “recycling doesn’t work”.
Sian Sutherland, Co-Founder of global solutions organisation, A Plastic Planet, which advises major brands on shifting away from plastic added:
“Next year has to be about turning off the plastic tap.
“The public is rightly increasingly sceptical of recycling, since plastic can only ever be ‘down-cycled’ and the whole process is from production to recycling to re-production is highly carbon intensive.
“Xampla’s technology is genuinely revolutionary. It could help wean the world off its addiction to plastic and away from the fantasy that recycling can solve the problems plastics cause.”