Cruz Foam makes styrofoam alternative from shrimp shells and food waste

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  • Cruz Foam has launched a packaging line to displace polystyrene peanuts and bubble wrap in e-commerce.
  • The startup, based in Santa Cruz, California, is backed by Ashton Kutcher’s Climate Fund, Eight One Ventures and others.
  • The company’s foam melts in water and is generally safe for animals to eat, unlike traditional Styrofoam, which degrades more slowly and adds to microscopic plastic pollution.

More than 100 cities in the US have enacted ordinances specifically banning or outright banning the use of disposable Styrofoam by restaurants and for shipping food and other products. In the state of California alone, 97 cities or counties have partial or full bans on single-use Styrofoam. Second proposed to be effective in Los Angeles County this May,

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Meanwhile, companies that ship or sell fragile goods, food or medical supplies that need to stay cool during shipping still need materials with the lightweight, insulating properties and manufacturability of Styrofoam.

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there is startup cruise foam The startup, founded in 2017 by CEO John Felts and CTO Marco Rolandi, which today has about 30 full-time employees, has created an alternative to expanded polystyrene, known by its trade name Styrofoam.

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Cruze foam is made from naturally occurring materials including chitin (pronounced like “kite-in”) as well as starches and fibers extracted from agricultural waste streams. Chitin is a polymer contained in the shells of shrimp and other crustaceans as well as insect exoskeletons. It is biodegradable and generally safe for animal consumption.

In contrast, traditional Styrofoam is made using heavy chemicals, degrades slowly, and has proven harmful when it accumulates in our oceans and adds to micro-plastic pollution.

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According to wildlife conservation researchers Fauna & Flora International, When marine life ingests Styrofoam it can “cause a variety of problems such as digestive obstructions, a false sense of fullness that can lead to starvation, and reduced fertility.” In addition, Styrofoam products are usually treated with flame retardants and can absorb other pollutants from the water around them, increasing the risk to any wildlife that live among discarded Styrofoam. or lives.

John Felts, CEO and cofounder of Cruise Foam, says he and CTO Marco Rolandi bonded during their undergraduate studies in materials science over a love of the ocean, surfing, and a desire to enjoy nature without harm.

He based his startup in Santa Cruz, California – a city known for its gorgeous beaches, boardwalks, surf culture and elephant seals, and used the city’s name for his startup.

For about two years, he focused his efforts in the laboratory on developing a type of foam from chitin that could serve as the core of a molded surfboard. Felts recalls that chitin was already known to be a promising bioplastic, but it was usually used to make bioplastic films, not very fluffy foams.

As they tinkered and tested, they realized they could make a huge impact on the health of the ocean if they addressed a bigger market than surfboards. He shifted his focus to packaging.

Since then, Cruz Foam has developed a foam pellet from natural materials that can be extruded and shaped into a wide range of packaging materials and containers on the same machinery found in factories making traditional Styrofoam products today.

On Wednesday, Cruz Foam formally introduced its new range of shipping products which include:

  • A foam and paper wrap that can replace bubble wrap or Styrofoam peanuts
  • a foam-padded mailer
  • Foam coolers that can preserve fresh and frozen items and keep them cold
  • Foam products that protect larger items such as furniture.

All of its new packaging products are “curbside recyclable” and compostable, Felts said.

Felts said the foam dissolves in a tub of water and can be sprinkled over a lawn or garden to safely add some nitrogen back into the soil. And it’s safe if your dog, or your fish, eats any of the suds.

To finance its development so far, Cruise Foam received a $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation to develop materials and manufacturing processes. The startup has raised just over $25 million in venture funding from climate tech and science-focused investors including Eight One Ventures, Ashton Kutcher and his climate fund Sound Waves, Helena Group, Regeneration VC and others.

on one Founding partner Tom Chee said his firm wants to support companies making a difference to the health of the ocean. He noted “closed loop plastic recycling”, where companies take back the packaging they create and recycle it, but the unit economics there do not work due to the high cost of “reverse logistics and post-consumer material processing”. Does

Cruise Foam’s approach, Chi said, “solves the problem by using Earth-compatible materials in the first place, but does so in a way that can be directly cost-competitive with virgin foam production.”

The startup has partnered with North Carolina-based Atlantic Packaging to bring its sustainable foam products to a wider range of grocers and retailers. And Cruz Foam is expected to move to its first phase of high-volume production by mid-2023, Felts told CNBC.

When it comes to new products, Felts acknowledged that there is a huge demand for disposable insulating coffee cups and takeout containers. But this year his company’s focus will be on e-commerce, shipping and protecting everything from car parts and medical supplies to meal kits.

The pandemic has increased demand for e-commerce and shipping, Felts said, but many businesses are still figuring out how to make or sell goods directly to homes instead of through grocers or retailers, and that includes their packaging. including reconsideration by the end of ,

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