Tennessee bioplastics startup wins NSF grant, targets new applications

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In Tennessee, startup Grow Bioplastics has received $225,000 in seed funding from the National Science Foundation to advance its production of biodegradable bioplastic sheets for use in agriculture and landscaping.

The company, founded in 2015, makes plastics that “can be broken down by bacteria and fungi in the soil at ambient conditions,” co-founder and CEO Tony Bova tells the Daily Beacon.  “(Our technology) uses a waste product from the paper and biofuel industry called lignin,”  he adds.

The company will use the Phase I Small Business Innovation Research grant to develop extraction technologies for lignin from different plant and tree species and examine how that impacts plastic attributes. Grow Bioplastics would ideally like to develop a lignin-based plastic with properties similar to low-density polyethylene before applying for a Phase II, $750,000 grant to make prototypes.

“We built our company around using bioplastics in agriculture, but our vision is much, much bigger,” co-founder and chief science officer Jeff Beegle says. “We would love to find solutions for plastic waste in packaging, textiles and even biomedical applications.”