Although now non grata even in law, for lack of alternative solutions, single-use plastics remain ubiquitous in our daily lives. And for good reason, its exceptional mechanical and thermal resistance properties and its resistance to ageing, weathering and chemical agents are unrivaled: “Although it is reaching its limits in terms of recycling, plastic is a material that has long been considered fantastic. But for some exclusive uses, it’s clearly overkill. A tray intended to accommodate fruit or vegetables does not necessarily need all the mechanical strength and barrier properties offered by plastic.explains Gilles du Sordet, president and co-founder of FunCell.
Based on this finding and in order to meet the needs of players in the packaging market, the company FunCell, founded in 2020 in Grenoble – in the heart of the cellulose valley, as some already call it -, has developed a cutting-edge innovation by supplying paper and cardboard with new functionalities without compromising their recyclability so that they can replace, as far as possible, disposable plastics.
Revolutionary bio-based additives
For this, and in collaboration with the CNRS and more particularly with CERMAV – a research unit of the CNRS specializing in plant chemistry – FunCell, abbreviated to “Functionalization of Cellulose Materials”, has developed two families of additives of biological origin BioWet and BioGraft . The first, intended for paper mills, aims to provide mechanical reinforcement to paper and cardboard in the dry and wet state. “With this additive of biological origin, cardboard will have the same mechanical performance, but its manufacture may require up to 30% less cellulosic material, depending on its composition. That is, it will be lighter, but equally resistant when dry and will still maintain some resistance after being subjected to torrential rain”.
With BioWet, FunCell also intends to meet the demand of players that operate in the toilet paper sector (note: tissue, paper towel, wet wipes, etc.) “They’ve been using an effective additive for a long time to strengthen the existing bonds between fibers, but this one is petroleum-based. BioWet appear as a natural alternative and are very demanding”. In addition to mechanical resistance, FunCell also intends to give barrier properties to paper and cardboard (to water, grease, etc.) and potentially other functionalizations on demand thanks to a second additive: BioGraft.
But it remains at the R&D stage. As your business adventure progresses and, in particular, within the scope of Citéo’s Circular Challenge – the accelerator dedicated to innovative solutions for prevention, ecodesign, sorting, collection, reuse and recycling in the domestic packaging and paper value chain – of which FunCell is the winner, Gilles du Sordet and his associates had the opportunity to discover start-ups capable of bringing other technological properties to paper and cardboard, with which they do not rule out the idea of collaborating to achieve, together, an optimal solution and position ourselves as a partial alternative to single-use plastics.
scale the solution
“Today it takes 2 months to manufacture 1 kg of BioWet additive”, says Gilles du Sordet. Thus, in order to scale up its innovative solution and, parallel to the entry into the capital of several investors such as Obratori – corporate investment fund of the L’Occitane group -, FunCell is launching a fundraising on the Lita.co financing platform. The amount raised will be used for the industrialization of BioWet, with a first pilot capable of producing 5 to 10 kg of additive per day, then a second pilot that will be even more productive.
The crowdfunding will also allow the commercialization of BioWet, as well as the continuation of the R&D work to study possible applications and develop new products in the BioGraft line.