Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund to invest in Ontario bioplastic company
Genecis CEO Luna Yu and her team are using food waste to create bioplastics, a biodegradable alternative to plastic packaging.
March 1, 2023 By Amazon
Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund is investing in Genecis, a bioplastics company founded by scientist Luna Yu. Genecis uses organic waste, like table food scraps, to create a biodegradable bioplastic that is an alternative to conventional plastic packaging.
The Climate Pledge Fund, which invests in climate tech companies developing innovations that help address global warming, recently announced its Female Founder Initiative to invest $50 million in women-founded and women-led climate tech companies. The program also invests money in incubators and accelerators that support women entrepreneurs, and it’s designed to help address the gender-equity funding gap that currently exists for women in climate tech. Women founders and their companies often receive a fraction of the venture capital funding – less than 3 per cent – according to Pitchbook.
Yu, who founded Genecis at the age of 21, is the first woman CEO to receive investment support through the Female Founder Initiative. Genecis is also the fund’s first investment in a company directly addressing the use of fossil fuel-derived plastics and the global warming factors they contribute to.
Yu came up with the idea for Genecis while studying to be an environmental scientist, and she says that her decision to work in climate tech has been encouraged by the leadership of other women in the field.
“I was inspired to start Genecis after I watched one of my friends at university start her own climate tech company. She raised all the funds, networked, and worked tirelessly. I realized that if she could do it, I shouldn’t let anything stop me,” said Yu. “I hope my path and story will encourage more women to develop their climate change solutions, too.”
Phoebe Wang, investment partner and head of the Female Founder Initiative, says she hopes Amazon’s program will also signal to women that funding is available to help bring their ideas to market.
“If we want to address climate change at scale, women like Luna need resources to build their companies,” said Wang. “By funding more companies like Genecis, we aim to send a ripple effect through the venture capital industry to encourage broader support for more female climate tech founders.”
Traditional plastics are created using petroleum and are a key source of pollution. Nearly 400 million metric tons of plastics are produced every year using fossil fuels, less than 10 per cent of which get recycled and more than half of which end up in landfills, according to the American Chemical Society. Genecis’ innovations with bioplastics have the potential to help address this challenge by replacing plastic products with fully biodegradable options.
Yu and her team at Genecis are using specialized bacteria to convert organic waste, like bread crusts and other food scraps, into bioplastics. Bioplastics can be used to create a wide variety of products and packaging – such as food packaging, clothing and textiles, and medical tools and products – that are currently made with traditional plastics. Genecis is currently working with several corporate partners to design products for their use and bring more bioplastics to market.
Amazon is currently evaluating ways to use Genecis’ technology. In the future, Genecis bioplastics could potentially offer Amazon customers the opportunity to receive grocery and pharmacy items in bioplastic packaging that is both biodegradable and easily recyclable.
“Reducing plastic waste is a challenging environmental issue. Investing in solutions like Genecis’ bioplastics is part of Amazon’s broader strategy to reduce single-use plastic,” said Alan Jacobsen, principal materials scientist at Amazon. “The work of Luna Yu and her team at Genecis has the potential to make plastic alternatives more affordable and change the impact plastic packaging has on the environment.”
Amazon’s approach to plastics
Plastic packaging is an industry-wide challenge, and Amazon is taking multiple approaches to reduce its packaging and increase recyclability. This includes investing in technologies and materials that have helped reduce the weight of the packaging per shipment by 38 per cent and eliminated the use of more than 1.5 million metric tons of packaging materials since 2015, as well as Amazon’s work with the Department of Energy’s BOTTLE consortium on reducing plastic pollution.
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