London-based biotech company Shellworks has raised $6.2m (£5m) in seed funding to scale its plastic-free and compostable packaging technology.
Founded in 2019, the startup is aiming to ramp up the commercial side of its compostable vegan packaging business by initially targeting the beauty industry, which produces more than 120 billion units of packaging per year.
Shellworks first developed compostable ‘plastic’ using polymers taken from shellfish waste, before switching to a “microbially-derived material” in 2020.
The result is vegan, petroleum-free packaging that behaves like plastic until it’s thrown away. Once added to a personal or industrial compost bin, it will decompose naturally in around one year.
By contrast, plastic packaging can take up to 500 years to decompose.
The plastic alternative is currently being used by brands such as BYBI, Liha and Sana Jardin. It can be used for a variety of packaging types, including cream containers and shampoo bottles.
“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,” said Insiya Jafferjee, co-founder and CEO at Shellworks. “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.”
Shellworks’ latest funding was led by London-based VC firm LocalGlobe, which has previously backed British fintech Wise.
Other investors include Founder Collective and True Global.
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.”