Innovations : These are the winners of the innovation award “Renewable Material of the Year 2021”

© Vepa

Material solutions based on renewable carbon have the potential to replace petrochemicals by 2050. All additional fossil carbon from the ground must be substituted to tackle climate change at its roots.

The three winners of the innovation award “Renewable Material of the Year 2021” are from the Netherlands (Plantics & Vepa), France (Carbios) and the USA/Switzerland (LanzaTech). They cover the three renewable carbon options: bio-based (hemp fibre and bio-resin), recycling (enzymatic recycling of PET) and CO2 utilisation (household cleaners).

The three-day Renewable Materials Conference (18 – 20 May, online) attracted 420 visitors. The combination of topics created a new platform for presenting solutions to representatives from other industries and for building new networks. The conference covered 60 speakers, 11 panel discussions, 500 public posts and 1,500 networking activities during the three conference days.

The conference advisory board selected six companies from 36 innovative submissions to showcase their technologies and applications to the audience. All the products presented are already available on the market or will be launched soon. The three winners were selected by the participants on the second day of the conference.

The winners in detail

First place: Plantics (The Netherlands) & Vepa (The Netherlands): Most Sustainable Chair ever from Hemp Fibres and Thermoset Bioresin

Dutch furniture manufacturer Vepa is the first in the world to launch a collection of chairs with a shell of a unique biomaterial. The used materials hemp fibre and bioresin are both fully biological, plant-based and recyclable. The unique bio-based resin and material are part of a new family of bio-based materials that have been developed by Plantics and is patented worldwide for many different applications. Plantics and Vepa collaborated intensively for two years to turn the biomaterial into a high-quality seat shell. The collection is produced entirely in the Netherlands and currently includes chairs and bar stools. The production process absorbs more CO2 than it emits. In addition, the chairs are designed in such a way that the various parts are easy to separate and materials can be reused endlessly.

Second place: Carbios (France): First clear plastic bottles from Enzymatically recycled textile waste

Carbios is the first and only company that develops biological processes to revolutionise the end-of-life of plastics and textiles. The mission is to provide an industrial solution to the recycling of PET plastics and textiles. This enzymatic recycling technology deconstructs any type of PET plastic waste into its basic components (monomers) which can then be reused to produce new PET plastics of virgin quality. In 2020, the first transparent plastic bottle from enzymatically recycled polyester textile waste was produced. Mechanical recycling technologies cannot recycle textile waste efficiently. In contrast, this new enzymatic process enables polyester fibres to be “upcycled” to a high-quality grade of PET suitable for the production of clear bottles.

>> You can read our article about textile recycling here: Textile Recycling: Innovation for a growing global problem >>

Third place: LanzaTech (USA/Switzerland): CO2 Recycling for CarbonSmart Cleaning

In 2020, Switzerland’s largest retail company, Migros, and its subsidiary, Mibelle Group, launched a range of liquid cleaning products containing LanzaTech CarbonSmart Ethanol as part of Migros Plus Oeco Power and Potz cleaning ranges. These products are now on sale in Migros supermarkets in Switzerland. The CarbonSmart Ethanol is produced from recycled carbon from steel emissions. The new pathway reduces greenhouse gas emissions and keeps additional fossil resources in the ground, protects biodiversity and avoids land-use change. The significant contribution to sustainability was validated through an independent life cycle analysis and the approach received support from experts at WWF in Switzerland.