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Food waste and food packaging take up a significant portion of the world’s landfills. AlterPacks is tackling both issues with technology that turns food waste into takeout boxes and other containers. The Singapore-based startup has raised $1 million in pre-seed funding led by Plug and Play APAC and Seed Capital, with participation from Earth Venture Capital and angel investor Alice Foo.
The new funding will be used for AlterPacks’ commercialization, including production and supply, in markets like Asia, Australia and Europe.
Founded in 2019 to tackle single-use plastics, AlterPacks’ main raw material are spent grains, a by-product of manufacturing foods like beer. Spent grains are usually used for animal feed, fertilizer or disposed of. Through its manufacturing process, AlterPacks turns spent grains into food containers that can be molded into different shapes, are freezer and microwave-friendly and home compostable.
Founder and CEO Karen Cheah told TechCrunch that she became interested in developing alternatives to disposable containers when she was traveling and saw communities struggling with the amount of plastic containers and food waste thrown away. AlterPacks uses spent grains because they are easily available.
“The properties of spent grains and the volume of grains available globally were two key factors,” she said. “By upcycling the grains, we are creating new economic value and putting what would have been a by-product disposed as animal feed, or headed to landfills and compost, back into the supply chain as food containers that can be used to replace plastic disposables.”
Cheah explained that the process of converting spent grains into AlterPacks’ food containers is similar to paper pulp manufacturing. AlterPacks can manufacture containers at scale with automated machines that clean raw materials, mix its formulation and then press it into different shapes of containers.
AlterPacks’ containers have been available commercially since December. Its go-to-market strategy is a B2B model and includes working with distribution partners that sell supplies to F&B businesses like restaurants and hotels. AlterPacks containers have been on the market since December. The startup is also in the process of developing bio-pellets as a replacement for petroleum-based resins use in manufacturing machines. They are made out of spent grains, and other agricultural waste like coconut shells.
In a statement about Plug and Play APAC’s investment, managing partner Jupe Tan said, “We got to know AlterPacks while sourcing for relevant startups for the Alliance to End Plastic Waste Innovation Program and they have gained significant interest from the members of the Alliance, which is naturally a signal for us to do further due diligence for investments. We are glad that we managed to tap into our partnership with SEEDS Capital to co-lead and invest in our very first sustainability startup in APAC and we hope this will be the first of many other sustainability investments with SEEDS Capital.”