Interview with Philippe Michon, Co-founder, Eranova
Exclusively for K-MAG
All steps of the process from green algae to plastic cup or film. Copyright: Eranova
With AlgX, the French industrial project Eranova has developed a product that responds to two global problems: Plastic pollution and algae pollution. It is a technology patented in 30 countries that allows the production of bio-based, recyclable, biodegradable and compostable plastics from green algae in the spirit of upcycling.
Philippe Michon, Co-founder, Eranova. Copyright: Eranova
In an interview with K-MAG, Philippe Michon explains how harmful algae is turned into a biodegradable plastic, to what extent Eranova is using its technology to combat pollution, and what he thinks about promoting strict plastic avoidance.
How exactly do you make plastic from algae?
Philippe Michon: We collect algae from the beaches, and we harvest it in large raceways using only sea water and very little energy. We grow and stress them resulting in an increasing level of starch and a modification of their fiber structure.
By a patented natural process, we bleach them and extract fibers and high content of starch. Those components are than compounded with other materials to create a composite or flexible, recyclable, or compostable, odorless, colorless flexible films.
This project is part of a 3rd generation vegetal-resource production model capable of developing on non-agricultural land with massive productivity: biomass production is 20 times higher and starch production 14 times higher than those of current terrestrial crops.
Final product using AlgX resin: compostable packaging for cookies. Copyright: Eranova
What is the final product particularly suitable for?
Michon: Addressable markets are multiple – from compostable food packaging (home compost certified) to recyclable durable product or rigid composite material for automotive industry. The portfolio of formulation is in constant evolution.
What contribution does it make to climate protection?
Michon: The contribution we make to climate protection is extremely powerful, as we efficiently combat environmental pollution in several ways:
a) We clean the beaches from a pollutant: Macro green algae is creating massive issues around the world when they are not collected. They are damaging sea eco system by eutrophication of the water, even killing peoples by emitting toxic gas. They are damaging the tourism and attractiveness of coastal cities.
b) We capture CO2: When they grow, green algae do capture massive amounts of CO2. It has been measured that 1kg of dry algae do capture 1 kg of CO2. No filter, no energy – just a natural process. With our plant in France, we are expecting to capture 10.000 tons of CO2 per year – with only one plant.
c) We decarbonize partially the plastic industry as our material can contain up to 50 to 60% of algae for certain application. We contribute to a transition model.
d) Last but not the least we locate the production of raw materials closer to the manufacturing plant in countries where there is a lack of resources and a large demand for employment. We do not need agricultural land and so we can implement our process in low industrialized territories.
Eranova plant in Marseille. Copyright: Eranova
What is your goal for the next five years?
Michon: We wish the packaging and plastic bashing promoters would stop adopting half-baked solutions based on emotion without looking at actual environmental impacts and scientific data.
There is a clear need to protect the environment with efficient solution such as biodegradability in case of littering, efficient sorting of material for recycling or to be aware that there is false environmental good solution based on full paper or carton.
For us, we hope to have several plants to spread our production and though reduce transportation cost and increasingly disconnect the packaging material from fossil-based solution.
Eranova is currently nominated for the "ocean tribute" award of boot. Since 2018, this has honored initiatives, associations and projects that are particularly committed to the preservation of the oceans. In the public voting, it landed in 2nd place with 30.8% of the votes.
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