Magnomer: A Design2Recycle
Design2Recycle: Magnetizable inks for enhanced recycling
Pitch us on your solution
Beverage bottles, made from PET plastic, enjoy significant collection & recycle infrastructure in US. Yet bottle2bottle recycling rates are under 6% This stems from incoherent design specifically labels. Labels on PET bottles are made from different plastics and are the #1 contaminant in PET recycling. Labels require separation during recycling – a challenging proposition.
Magnomer introduces magnetizable inks: a design2recycle™ tool for plastic packaging. Our magnetizable inks are printed on labels using existing manufacturing processes. Recyclers use existing magnets to separate labels efficiently. Our technology allows brands to design plastic packaging for the circular economy without sacrificing manufacturability.
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, in a 2017 report, concludes that recycling with radically improved economics is the most impactful strategy for circular plastics use. Our technology allows syncing a design for manufacturing with a design2recycle. This positively impacts the economics of recycling, incentivizing higher collection and accelerating circular use.
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What is the problem you are solving?
Less than 6% of all plastic PET bottles get recycled. As per NAPCOR, the US has ~2800 thousand tons (TT) of PET bottles available for recycling. About one third, ~800 TT, is captured by recycling facilities. Low bottle collection rates are driven by a larger structural problem. Only 150 TT (less than 6% of total) PET plastic is recycled back to bottles. Contamination is the largest cause of yield loss in the recycle process after bottle capture. Contamination in PET plastic bales, recovered after capture, is primarily due to labels. Labels on plastic bottles use a plastic resin which chemically differs from bottle PET plastic. Recyclers need to separate the label from the bottle plastic during the recycle process. This separation is extremely inefficient currently. A lack of efficient recycling leads to lower incentive to capture which in turn results in packaging leaking in to the environment. At Magnomer, our coatings lead to higher recycling yields which incentivizes higher collection and lower environmental litter.
Who are you serving?
Our customers are consumer brands and their label suppliers. We are currently working on paid pilots with a leading consumer brand (under NDA) and major label manufacturer (under NDA) to showcase commercial-scale viability of our first product. (inks for shrink labels)
Standard labels requiring economically prohibitive steps for separation are disruptive to recycling. This is not just an environmental problem. It is problem faced by customers in the marketplace, namely:
- Label manufacturers face backlash, slower growth and tremendous business risk.
- Consumer brands are unable to switch to scalable sustainable packaging solutions due to lack of a robust recycled plastic supply. This inability, caused due to low recycling yields, poses serious business risk in face of negative consumer perception and government regulations
Our approach provides unique value to our customers because:
- Drop-in Design: Our approach does not disrupt current bottle and label manufacturing.
- Versatility: Our magnetizable inks can be applied to a variety of resins (polymer) and label types making a large portfolio of packaging recycle-friendly
- Bottle2Bottle recycling: Our approach imparts recyclability without any need for changes to existing recycling infrastructure. This allows brands and packaging manufacturers to increase recycled content in bottle packaging.
What is your solution?
Our solution – magnetizable inks – is a design tool for current bottle packaging addressing removal of the largest contaminant in the PET recycle stream – labels. As a first step during recycling, PET bottles are shred into cornflake-sized chips. The commingled PET bottle and label flake need to be separated from each other. Inefficient separation leads not just to lower quality plastic but also significant yield losses in generation of rPET (recycled PET).
Our inks – printed on labels – allow magnetic separation of label flake. Post shredding label chips are attracted by existing magnets in the recycling operation. It is important to note that no new equipment is needed for magnetic separation to occur. Our pilots show >95% separation of label flake within existing recycle processes– vastly improving on current industry average of 10% separation. Our magnetizable inks do not impede any other recycle operations. We are currently undergoing certification from the Association of Plastic Recyclers for our innovation.
Labels on bottles are the #1 contaminant in PET recycling. Our magnetizable inks themselves become a design element as packaging engineers and manufacturers think about the circular use of their bottle packaging. It does not replace any element of the bottle package and does not adversely impact functionality. Our inks are specifically designed to:
- Complement current label printing operations
- Not affect label application on bottles (do not change mechanical properties such as shrink capability)
- Meet technical industry requirements such as scratch resistance (we check for 14 different ink parameters)
- Work with a variety of label types (shrink label, pressure-sensitive labels)
- Be applied to variety of resins used for labels (PETG, BOPP, PE etc)
- Not impede brand artwork or aesthetics (our ink can be made transparent or in a variety of colors)
- And finally, comply with food-safety standards as prescribed by US FDA
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Where is your solution team headquartered?Boston, MA, USA
Our solution's stage of development:
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Describe what makes your solution innovative.
Currently, labels on bottles serve a singular purpose - to communicate with the user. This communication is essential in informing the user and helping them make a buying choice. Given manufacturing constraints and unit economics, labels on bottles are indispensable. Unintended environmental externality of low bottle recycling caused due to labels is a function of mismatched design. Elements of label design which work well from a manufacturing standpoint are at odds with those that are needed for better bottle recycling.
Magnomer's novel approach adds a functional element to labels while still maintaining its primary purpose. Our magnetizable inks are a design tool for packaging engineers to achieve recyclability within manufacturing constraints. The biggest strength of our innovation lies in the fact that it leans on current recycle and manufacturing practices to deliver a design tool in the form of magnetizable inks.
Currently, three competing recycle-friendly label technologies for shrink labels (one of three major label types) are being piloted in the market. Each attempt to resolve shrink sleeve label contamination by enhancing separation from plastic bottles during recycling. However, each of these require significant changes in label manufacturing or recycle operations requiring large capex - a huge practical hurdle for businesses.
Our innovation adds a new functionality delivering desired recycle-friendly behavior without disrupting manufacture or recycle operations.
Describe the core technology that your solution utilizes.
Magnomer’s core-technology is based-on combining know how from two very disparate fields of engineering: magnetism and inks. Our novel technology platform involves the use of temporarily magnetizable materials in inks designed for high-speed printing. Our technology and application is protected by US PCT/US2018/043778.
The use of otherwise benign ferromagnetic materials in form a thin layer of ink on plastic packaging allows for separation in presence of a magnetic field. In the recycle process, commonly used commercial self-cleaning magnetic separators are able to attract coated items (labels) mechanically separating them at high speeds and efficiency.
Our technology is currently at technology-readiness level 6 – where commercial manufacture of ink for our first product use case (shrink sleeve labels) has been demonstrated. We have showcased printing on shrink labels and the final end-product – bottles with labels using our coating) has been successfully tested for separation on pilot scale
Why do you expect your solution to address the problem?
The key intended outcome of sustainable packaging can be measured by increased recycled content. Magnomer's innovation directly impacts this by removal of the #1 contaminant in PET bottle recycling - labels.
Our product - magnetizable inks - leverages learnings by organizations such as the Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR) – who in public reports have commented on the severity of the label problem as it relates to PET recycling. The APR has done detailed public studies quantifying required label separation from the PET recycle stream for healthy recycle markets.
Pilot tests done with customers (consumer brands) have show desired degree of separation for labels printed with our magnetizable inks. We are currently working on paid pilots with large global consumer brands to showcase scalabilty and deliver desired label separation output. These pilots double as certification projects from the APR who recognizes packaging innovations that help recyclability.
Our innovation can effect change in the market because in takes into account practical operational constraints in both the manufacturing and recycle processes.
How many people are you currently serving with your solution? How many will you be serving in one year? How about in five years?
- We are currently piloting with 1-5 customers (exact number not disclosed for competitive reasons)
- We plan on serving 1-5 customers in the next 12 months
- We plan on serving 30-50 customers in 5 years.
Our customers are consumer brands, label manufacturers and label printers. PET recyclers are stakeholders.
What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?
In the short-term, we at Magnomer are focused on showcasing value for plastic bottles and have signed on pilots with large consumer brands. Our intended market impact is to work with major consumer brands and implement our solution to drastically increase bottle to bottle recycling rates and recycled content in bottle packaging.
In the long-term, we seek to apply our technology to 2 of the top 5 and 4 of the top 10 marine-bound plastics to alleviate the rate of marine-bound plastics. We identify closely with UN Sustainable development goal #12. We strive to work with our customers and recyclers alike to ensure that packaging that not only syncs with manufacturing realities but also delivers a design2recycle™
What are the barriers that currently exist for you to accomplish your goals for the next year and for the next five years?
In the short term, the biggest barrier to our solution entering the market is buy-in by consumer brands to added cost of our inks. Our inks are priced similar to any premium ink and can add about 0.05-0.1 cent per bottle. This is roughly 1-2% cost of the entire bottle (each bottle manufacturing costs roughly 5 cents). While this is a marginal cost it could prevent mass adoption.
In the long-term, a lack of cohesive domestic regulation around packaging design around recyclability could adversely impact us. Currently interest for enhanced recyclability in packaging is driven by policies implemented by China (national Sword) and EU (recycled content regulation). While states like CA are considering legislation, a holistic legislative approach on plastics pollution is lacking in the US.
How are you planning to overcome these barriers?
We plan to address our cost barrier in the following ways:
- We are currently developing inks which will require lower per unit added cost
- Higher ink volumes will reduce manufacturing cost. With this in mind we are working with our customers to commit on larger volumes
It is to be noted that our current pilot customers do not see the cost as a big barrier. The cost of packaging can be reduced by increasing the amount of recycled content in packaging. Our inks help the bottle recycle ecosystem allowing consumer brands to increase recycled content and reduce cost overall.
For potential barriers around legislation, current policies by China and EU are driving interest in sustainable packaging solutions. We engage and participate in relevant forums to assist lawmakers.
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How many people work on your solution team?
For how many years have you been working on your solution?
Why are you and your team best-placed to deliver this solution?
Our team consists of:
- Ravish Majithia, our CEO:
Ravish holds a Ph.D. in Materials Science from Texas A&M and an MBA from Babson College. A Babson Fellow, Sorenson Scholar and named as one of the Top 100 MBA’s in 2018 by Poets and Quants, Ravish brings a blend of technical and business expertise to Magnomer.
- Vishal Salian, our COO,
Vishal holds a PhD in Chemical Engineering from Auburn University and is a polymer science expert. With significant experience in chemicals manufacturing, Vishal brings an ability to navigate technical challenges as Magnomer iterates product development.
- Kumaril Kapadia, our CTO,
Kumaril is an ink chemist with 15 years of R&D experience. He hold a M.S. in Chemistry and co-owns an ink manufacturing unit which gives Magnomer the ability to fulfill anticipated demand without having to incur significant capex
- Ranjana Varma, Scientist
Ranjana holds a PhD in Physics from University of Mumbai with specialization in nanomaterials. An author of fifteen peer-reviewed research articles, she brings strong materials characterization expertise to the Magnomer team
With what organizations are you currently partnering, if any? How are you working with them?
- Multinational Label manufactures (Under NDA)
- Global consumer brand (under NDA)
We are working with above partners by means of a paid pilot which will upon successful completion with be recognized by the Association of Plastic Recyclers under their Responsible Innovation Program
What is your business model?
Product: Magnetizable ink
- Key Value prop: Delivers recyclability within manufacturing and recycle market constraints
- Key customers: Consumer brands
- Key Activities and Resources: Development of magnetizable ink technology for high-speed plastic package printing, Novel IP
- Key Partners: Contract ink manufacturers
- Revenue generators: See below
What is your path to financial sustainability?
We generate revenue in three ways:
- Sale of magnetizable ink: We are priced similar to a premium ink used on packaging and the additional cost of adding Magnomer ink is equivalent to adding a premium color onto bottle labels. Ink is sold to packaging (label) manufacturers with pricing tested.
- Licensing revenue: Our patents protect the design of packaging with magnetizable ink and we license this to consumer brands.
- Data monetization (under development): By virtue of magnetic separation, we can accurately appraise recycling rates for PET bottles. This geo-spatial data is valuable to consumer brands and regulatory bodies.
Why are you applying to Solve?
- Solve offers us a platform to communicate our technology and solution to a vibrant network of entrepreneurs, engineers and champions of the circular economy. We pride ourselves in learning from feedback and love talking to people about our technology, exchanges ideas and engage in discussions about the future of the circular economy.
- As a seed-stage startup, access to funding and a investor network is always helpful.
What types of connections and partnerships would be most catalytic for your solution?
With what organizations would you like to partner, and how would you like to partner with them?
- Consumer brands: Our customers. Large brands often have the appetite to pilot and help with scale-up
- Industry organizations: Recycling Partnership, Sustainable Packaging Coalition etc. - organizations looking to encourage innovations in sustainable packaging
If you would like to apply for the GM Prize on Circular Economy, describe how you and your team will utilize the prize to advance your solution.
STEM based education on plastics recycling is critical for higher consumer awareness and effective legislation.
If awarded this prize, the Magnomer team will use the funds towards communicating the value proposition of our design to customers, thought leaders and general public. This would include marketing campaigns to help people better understand the reasons behind low plastics recycling and how design of packaging can be used to overcome hurdles. Examples of events held by Magnomer team in recent past are below: