The food and agriculture system generates large amounts of vegetable waste, which is costly to process and requires management effort. However, this waste can also bring opportunities.
The Spanish company named Feltwood “Unused parts of lettuce or artichoke and other plant waste without adding any plastics, adhesives or binders environmentally friendly industrial materials developed a technology that produces
This technology is based on two processes: first, plant waste is converted into felt raw material and then molded to produce products that are 100% biodegradable, recyclable and even compostable.
Feltwood's founder and CEO, Arancha Yáñez, has been a diver since childhood. “The day I encountered more plastic than fish, the project was born,” she says. “One of the biggest challenges we face as a society is pollution caused by non-biodegradable and toxic materials that end up in nature and in the oceans. Our materials are an alternative to plastic and wood in many applications,” she says.
Plastic alternatives must have a competitive price
Arancha believes that alternatives to toxic and non-biodegradable materials such as plastic should be competitively priced, biodegradable, and have optimum technical properties. “Our processes are modular and materials with different technical properties can be obtained. This allows us to focus on more than one sector as a target market.
“After the validation of the first industrial facility, we aimed for a rapid international expansion plan by leveraging the knowledge generated in this validation. The focus is on Europe, particularly the Scandinavian countries, as their legislation and traditions make our technology attractive. Some multinational companies have contacted us and we are reaching agreements for rapid internationalization while protecting our industrial property.”
“Companies that generate large amounts of plant waste and are also looking for biodegradable materials for packaging production can gain profitability and greater efficiency while expanding their market options. Valuing your own factory waste by turning it into raw materials is not only a circular solution, but also a way to save money on waste management,” says Arancha.
Fruits and vegetables in a lettuce bowl
Feltwood products are made from 30% plant fibers obtained from more than 100 different plant wastes. Mainly lettuce, artichoke and pineapple are used.
The company has three materials with different properties, all biodegradable, recyclable and compostable, for four specific markets;
- Focusing on the construction industry, cold rooms and modular roofs, Feltwood Insulation
- Feltwood Anti-Impact, which has ideal properties for protective packaging,
- Feltwood Pack for the light packaging industry (small boat-shaped containers),
- Feltwood Hard, an ideal material for applications requiring great resistance such as furniture.
Arancha Yáñez; “We are currently evaluating industrial production at scale, working with companies that help us do the necessary testing. The challenge is to meet the huge demand we receive, especially from companies that want to do it on time, in the most efficient way possible, and to manufacture and sell greener products and remove plastic from their production. “Companies that generate waste also come to us to look for solutions to find out what they can do with it,” he says.
According to the company's CEO, the process itself does not require a lot of energy. Arancha Yáñez; “One of our goals is to design an efficient and optimized process and minimize our carbon footprint. For example, the first transaction takes place next to the production site, thereby limiting unnecessary transportation or using renewable energy sources in production. The raw material used is plant waste and adapting to the different types of waste that can be found in the production area is a huge advantage,” he says.
Circular economy, energy savings and commitment
Arancha describes its business model as a technology transfer by licensing the use of the patent. “This model makes it possible to reach more companies in less time and therefore has a greater impact worldwide. “We hope that production will begin as soon as possible so that environmentally friendly materials can replace plastic and other toxic materials.”
Feltwood is indeed presented as a triple action company, and the company is on a positive note. economic, social and environmental impact focuses on having:
- Economic: It is economical by transforming waste into valuable products, increasing the profitability of agricultural productions, supporting the development of rural settlements and creating a circular economy.
- Social: Protecting people's health by reducing the use of toxic substances and providing safer products, especially for children.
- Environmental: Environmental: by reducing the use of pollutants and reusing plant wastes produced by agriculture, preventing it from ending up in aquifers or being incinerated, as well as reducing the felling of trees
Considering the excess of vegetable wastes originating from agriculture and generally used for animal feed or biogas and waste generation is not completely prevented, Feltwood stands out as a model that can provide both environmental and economic gain by placing more value on waste in terms of its contribution to the circular economy.