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Ex-Apple execs tap $6.2M for offering a sustainable solution to cosmetics packaging problem

London-based biotech startup Shellworks that wants to eliminate plastic packaging has secured $6.2 million in seed funding. The investment round was led by LocalGlobe that recently backed FoondaMate and GetHenry.

Founder Collective, True Global, BoxGroup, Divergent Capital and angels, including Deepali Nangia (Alma Angels founder), Julien Callede (Made co-founder), Bryan Meehan (former Blue Bottle Coffee CEO) and Grant Aarons (FabricNano co-founder and CEO) also participated in the round.

Shellworks will use the funding to scale its technology and invest in commercial growth to put an end to single-use plastics starting with the beauty industry.

Ferdi Sigona, partner at LocalGlobe, said: “We’re delighted to be backing Insiya, Amir and the rest of the Shellworks team, as they bring the science, creativity and lightning speed we’re used to in tech environments to the world of materials and packaging. It’s been amazing to hear their customers rave about the products they’ve already created, and all of us at LocalGlobe are looking forward to seeing them build an iconic materials house to end plastic waste.”

How was the idea born?

Shellworks was founded in 2019 by Insiya Jafferjee and Amir Afshar who met during their Masters at the Royal College of Art and Imperial College of London. The founding team combined their experience working in manufacturing and design, including stints at Apple, Bose and Ford to create this new type of beautiful and sustainable packaging.

They started with bio-based and compostable plastic. Initially beginning with polymers derived from shellfish waste, they pivoted in early 2020 to using vegan microbially-derived material to create sustainable petroleum-free packaging, with no compromise on performance, aesthetics or cost.

Insiya Jafferjee, co-founder and CEO at Shellworks, said: “Our vision is to break the reliance on the petroleum industry by building a new standard of packaging that is performant, cost-competitive and truly sustainable. We work at the intersection of two ecosystems, the natural and the commercial, and we’re constantly trying to play a meaningful, connected and consistent role in both. The beauty industry creates 120 billion units of plastic packaging annually and we’re committed to providing a scalable solution to tackle this and we’re incredibly grateful that we’ve identified a group of investors who share this vision.”

Amir Afshar, co-founder and CPO at Shellworks, said: “We’ve spent the last two years really refining our processes and material formulations to ensure that our products are not only sustainable but scalable. By working collaboratively with nature we want to show how promising the future of materials can be and are looking forward to launching our new range of products that both look and feel great later this year. At its core, we’re highlighting that the sustainable choice doesn’t have to mean compromise.”

Sustainable alternative to plastic

Single-use plastic is an overwhelming environmental problem. Reportedly, 380 million metric tonnes of plastic are produced yearly and approximately 91% of it is not recycled. These plastic bottles and containers end up in landfills or the ocean, polluting the environment and harming wildlife.

While there is an increased focus on single-use plastic in the food industry, the beauty and personal care space is just as challenging. Around 120 billion units of plastic are created every year by the entire industry, of which only 14% makes it to a recycling centre. There is an increase in the number of consumers who want sustainable alternatives, while brands are seeking partners that can provide this for them.

How does it work?

Shellworks is providing this solution with scalable, functional and compostable packaging that performs like plastic until it’s disposed of. It uses bacteria found in soil and marine environments to create compostable, vegan packaging for beauty brands that looks and works like plastic, but without the detrimental environmental footprint.

Once a product found in Shellworks’ Vivomer packaging is finished, the packaging can either be reused or placed in a personal compost or industrial compost bin, where it is broken down enzymatically. On average, it takes around a year for a product to break down, in contrast to petroleum-based plastics that can take up to 500 years to decompose.

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