I was driving to the lab one morning when I heard a discussion on the radio. The discussion was about the effects of plastics on animal health, as well as environmental issues. I am sure I don’t need to talk ad nauseam about whales dying and the damage to other sea life. The pictures of the two sperm whales washed up recently with stomachs full of plastic shows the of the injustice and disgrace of plastic pollution in our seas far more than I can articulate. But the issues go further. Plastics which end up in the sewerage system and ultimately in ponds, rivers and seas does more than cause death by malnutrition or starvation, they can actively change the gender of fish.

Plasticisers used in the production of many common plastic items can leach into water over time. These can cause biological changes to male organisms, because the plasticisers can mimic the female hormone, oestrogen. When male organisms have elevated oestrogen, they begin to develop female characteristics. In the case of fish, it has been shown that male perch exposed to some of these chemicals are beginning to develop eggs. This is obviously not an ideal situation for these animals.

In fairness, plasticisers are not the only culprit. Hormone based medications can also have an effect. However, if we can at least reduce the amount of harmful waste causing damage to the environment by reducing the amount of traditional plastic that causes issues like the one just discussed, then surely that can only be a good thing.

 

 

Ryan Taylor

The past 6 months have progressed as a blur seen from a roller-coaster. CuanTec are on a high this morning. Last night we received the highest prize in Scottish Edge (Round 10) HIGGS section - £150,000 to spend on developing our business.

I can’t emphasise how much pride I feel at this. Often companies apply to Edge several times before winning any prize, so CuanTec going into that cohort and coming away with the top prize on our first try and after only being in operation since January is simply amazing.

The team pulled this together. It couldn’t have been done by any one of us alone. There have been additional helpers along the way working with graphics, filming the video, providing advice and nagging as required. Some of those people we hope will become integral to the team as we move forward.

To be honest the past 6 months have seen many highs and few lows. We are in a very fortunate place and have found tremendous goodwill from everyone we have met with so far. There is genuine interest and market pull for our product. So many people from related industries, potential partners and customers and the entrepreneurial support community have really gone that extra mile for us that we truly feel that we are working to create the right product in the right place at the right time.

However, it is not all luck. There has been a lot of planning, a lot of scientific and commercialisation skill brought to bear and a lot of hard work. The advantages of the product are easy to grasp, particularly in the setting of a circular economy story – but that story is only believable and can only provoke confidence if the team are also credible. Winning Edge provides us with the wonderful acknowledgement that we are a good team and have a bright future.

Friday 23rd June 2017, mark it in your diary. CuanTec have arrived.

Every year 8.8 million tonnes of plastic, according to WWF, end up in the sea creating environmental problems, it can take over 600 years to decompose and economic problems. In UK, approximately €18M every year is spent by municipalities in order to have clean beaches.

Half of the plastic used is disposable, it is going to be used once and thrown away, mostly ending in landfill or in the nature. This is not acceptable.

That’s why more and more countries are implementing laws and rules to reduce our dependence to plastic.

In Europe for example, one of the biggest plastic issue currently discussed is disposable plastic bags. In Europe about 8 billion plastic bags will not be recycled and will end its life as trash, even though plastic bags can take up to 400 years to decompose.

European citizens of different countries don’t have the same consumption of plastic bags. Some like those in Finland will mostly use reusable plastic bags, an average Finnish citizen will use 77 plastic bags per year, 73 reusables and 4 single use bags, in comparison a UK citizen will use in average 176 plastic bags, 158 single use and 18 reusable bags. Therefore, targets have been set. By 2025 it has been decided that the annual consumption of lightweight (less than 50 micron) plastic bags in Europe should not exceed 40.

Thankfully more and more countries are implementing advanced regulations to tackle this problem.

In UK, a mandatory charge on plastic bags is enforced, it was first put into action in 2011 in Wales, 2013 in Northern Ireland, 2014 in Scotland and 2015 in England. Even though it has been implemented at different time, it has shown its efficiency. For example, in Scotland, in one year plastic bag uses in stores dropped by 80%.

The more the countries execute new law against plastic the more they see the results on its consumption, therefore the amount of laws against plastic is increasing and they are getting more rigorous all over the world.

For instance, in France, several actions have been taken against plastic pollution. Plastic bags have been prohibited in every shop since 2017, plastic Q-Tip and microbeads are expected to be banned in 2018 and finally, plastic cutlery, made of not compostable and non-biological material, are planned to be banned in 2020.

This new awareness, knowing that plastic is avoidable, creates a need. Companies need alternatives to plastic, not only to be environmentally friendly but to comply with the applicable laws. That is why we decided to create a product entirely biological, compostable, harmless to humans, animals or the environment, which is a great alternative to traditional plastic. Furthermore, thanks to its antimicrobial activities our plastic has another clear advantage over plastic for food packaging, it makes food last longer avoiding food waste, therefore, economical loses.

 

Marguerite Guibourg