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Invest Puerto Rico and Newlab select five early-stage startups to pilot solutions for converting unmanaged and landfilled items into new value-added products


Published:
December 15, 2023

The Puerto Rico Studio cohort will aim to identify renewable life cycles for disposed tires, plastic waste and sargassum seaweed.

Sway founders Matt Mayes and Julia Marsh show off their product, a seaweed-based, rapidly compostable replacement for plastic. Photo by Alex Krowiak
Sway founders Matt Mayes and Julia Marsh show off their product, a seaweed-based, rapidly compostable replacement for plastic. Photo by Alex Krowiak

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, Dec. 14, 2023 — CarbonCycle, SOS Carbon, Sway, Thalasso Ocean and PANGAIA have been selected to pilot solutions to convert Puerto Rico’s sargassum seaweed, plastic waste and end-of-life tires into new value-added products. The cohort, called the Puerto Rico Studio, was created in partnership between Invest Puerto Rico (InvestPR), the island’s business attraction organization, and Newlab, a renowned center of invention based in Brooklyn, NY.

Sargassum is a seaweed whose excess accumulation in recent years is affecting coastal ecosystems. Approximately 18,000 tires are disposed daily in Puerto Rico, and there are significant import and export constraints on the Island for plastics. InvestPR, whose mission is to propel economic growth on the island, and Newlab, which has expertise in driving climate solutions, identified an opportunity from this waste crisis to scale circular economy technologies and bring innovation to the island while addressing this problem.

The cohort is piloting the technologies through March 2024:

  • CarbonCycle is a Missouri-based organization founded in 2018 that designs, builds and deploys waste-to-value systems. CarbonCycle works with U.S. federal agencies to design systems that use heat to convert used tires into fuels without significant energy requirements or harmful emissions. CarbonCycle will work with Puerto-Rico based Once and for All Tires, LLC (OAFA), which shreds and reshapes used tires into products such as mulch and gym mats. OAFA will leverage CarbonCycle’s technology to better use the entirety of tire waste and to create high-value products, such as fuel. During the pilot, CarbonCycle will complete pre-development work to construct their technology in Puerto Rico. If successful, OAFA and CarbonCycle will look to incorporate plastic waste into their operations on the island in the future.
  • SOS Carbon, founded in the Dominican Republic in 2020, works with fishing communities to collect near-shore sargassum seaweed to prevent it from beaching, which negatively impacts the surrounding ecosystems, human health and tourism. This collection approach also produces better quality sargassum for final products. SOS Carbon will test regulatory procedures to begin collection in Puerto Rico waters. All collection activities will be coordinated and validated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Puerto Rico’s Department of Natural Resources to ensure that collection efforts are responsible.
  • Sway, founded in Berkeley, CA in 2020, is a clean tech startup that scales seaweed-based, rapidly compostable replacements for plastics. In the final stage of its pilot in Puerto Rico, Sway will conduct a compost trial for sargassum and will test the integration of sargassum-based compounds into their bioplastic products, which are used to package apparel, accessories and dry goods.
  • Thalasso Ocean, founded in Norway in 2022, with operations in Mexico, will create a “micro bio-refinery,” or shipping container-sized portable lab, that can extract compounds from sargassum seaweed once it’s harvested. This allows for high-quality inputs for sargassum-derived products, such as Sway’s bioplastics. Thalasso Ocean is dedicated to making sargassum management profitable for local communities through technological solutions. Thalasso envisions a network of micro bio-refineries throughout Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, staffed by local workers, that will allow sargassum products to scale through a sustainable, local supply chain.
  • PANGAIA, founded in 2018 and headquartered in London, is a materials science company that creates lifestyle products through sustainable manufacturing. The company’s apparel and accessories are made from recycled wool, plant-based leather alternatives, biopolymers and other sustainable materials. PANGAIA will test the creation of a sargassum-based yarn and contribute its manufacturing practices and supply chain expertise to determine the economic feasibility of a sargassum-based supply chain.

For more information, please visit wastetoxstudiopr.com.

About Invest Puerto Rico
Invest Puerto Rico is a non-profit entity created by law to promote Puerto Ricoabroad as a competitive jurisdiction for investment, focused on attracting new businesses and capital to foster economic growth on the Island. Our vision is to be a transformational and results-oriented economic development accelerator for the Island. Learn more at www.investpr.org.

About Newlab
Newlab is a center of invention mobilizing people, capital, and expertise to address systemic challenges in energy, mobility and materials. Newlab reaches across industry and sector lines to connect innovators and experts to build, test and scale world-changing ideas. Through its community, platforms and infrastructure, Newlab is breaking down the world’s greatest challenges into projects and experiments that drive meaningful progress today.

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