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Timeplast Founder Manuel Rendon on Dissolving the Plastic Problem

Introduction

Plastic helps us carry groceries home, protect smartphones, and get from place to place. It is deeply integrated into daily life — but it’s also becoming further embedded into both the environment and people’s bodies. Plastic is so prevalent that it can be found in human blood, and the average individual is expected to eat more than 40 pounds of it in their lifetime.

Timeplast is working on an alcohol-based, water-soluble plastic alternative. Its patented material is versatile and completely dissolves in 12 hours — not so fast that it can’t serve its purpose but fast enough to conveniently get rid of. We reached out to founder, inventor, and CEO Manuel Rendon to hear more about Timeplast’s applications and how it can conserve energy.

Note: This interview was conducted over phone and email. It has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

What inspired you to take the leap and start Timeplast?

Manuel Rendon

Ever since I began to understand the limitations we have as species to become a type 1 civilization on the Kardashev Scale, also known as a technological base of measure for sustainable societies, I went ahead and focused my life on working to address plastic pollution. I started studying environmental engineering and developed a series of tests to better understand everything related to conventional plastic’s molecular structure, with the goal of creating a new type of material that could substitute it. I thought it would take my entire life, but it only took me 17 years from the first scientific publication I made to this day. 

Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

How is Timeplast transforming the plastic industry?

Manuel Rendon

We’re transforming the industry mainly in three areas. The first one is the actual type of material we created. Even though water-soluble materials have existed for a very long time — for example, polyvinyl alcohol was created in 1924 — all of the water-soluble plastics so far either don’t dissolve at Earth’s average water temperature or they do dissolve in cold water, but the dissolution process starts so instantly that we can’t make any practical applications that aim to substitute the uses of conventional plastic. Timeplast is a water-soluble material, yet it is water resistant for a programmable and limited period of time, which allows for conventional plastic substitution applications. We were able to not only create one type of plastic substitution material but multiple, including expanded materials to substitute conventional plastics such as expanded polystyrene, also known as Styrofoam.

The second area is in the form we polymerize or actually make our materials. Typically, plastics are made in big polymerization reactors. It’s a whole industry with a large carbon footprint. In our case, we developed a technology that allows the use of our customers’ plastic manufacturing machines as our polymerization reactors, incredibly optimizing energy consumption while using the same energy to make, let’s say, a bottle to polymerize our materials.

The third area we believe Timeplast is transforming the industry is in the perspective we’re presenting to the plastic pollution issue. For the longest time, it has been said that having a biodegradable plastic, a bio-based plastic, a recyclable plastic, or even fully recycled plastic would solve the problem. However, we know that it is not the case, as biodegradable plastic requires a certain level of bacteria concentration and other requirements which you don’t find in most environments on the planet. Bio-based plastics are just a literal carbon copy of fossil-based plastics, which means they’ll pollute the same way, and recyclable or recycled plastics will degrade every time they go through a recycling cycle, making them even more prone to microscopic fragmentation due to cross-linking and microscopic ash formation. Not to mention, the cost of capturing, sorting, and recycling plastics at needed levels exceeds any feasible current proposal or business model. 

Timeplast brings a new perspective to the table: water solubility. Our planet looks blue from outer space for a very good reason. Nature intended for water to recycle and clean our environment at planetary levels. If we keep making non-water-soluble materials, we are contradicting the grand chemistry of our planet, and just like Francis Bacon said, “Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed.”

Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

What does the competitive landscape look like, and how do you differentiate?

Manuel Rendon

Right now, we have the first-to-market advantage, as I’m not aware of any other water-soluble, novel plastic with water-resistant capabilities. However, the plastic market is so big that currently some of the biggest companies in history are behind it. Most petroleum companies and petrochemical companies will certainly jump into the water-soluble space as soon as we prove our market application. At that point, we will still have the advantage of being a new company, agile, and nimble, which has proven over and over again to be key in the Davids versus Goliaths we’ve seen in the last four decades. Startups are becoming much larger than their conventional competitors that are unable to compete in today’s market, which is a full-on innovation world contest.

Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

What is your go-to-market strategy?

Manuel Rendon

We have been creating teams of engineers and professionals in the US, India, Europe, and Latin America. We’re planning a concomitant global launch to secure our first-to-market advantage. We’re planning to substitute polyethylene first, the most used plastic in the world. We’re not planning to substitute one or two types of applications but many.

Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

Why would potential customers choose your product over petroleum-based plastic or starch-based materials?

Manuel Rendon

They’ll have a material that looks, feels, and costs the same, yet it goes away after its desired use not in months or years but in hours.

Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

How do you intend to use the money you raise this round to scale the business?

Manuel Rendon

We’re going to fund the cost of regulatory Timeplast’s standardization around the world, both in legal terms and engineering terms. Once we have a material that’s been approved by local regulators and standardized to be used in any manufacturing process, we anticipate receiving a huge demand for our products. Plastic companies are struggling to survive in a regulated environment, and we’ll bring the material they need to keep their businesses functioning. We will also be providing a new alternative to all of those companies who have already jumped to glass, metal, and paper, as our materials are much more sustainable than those.

We look forward to seeing where Manuel and his team take the company. Timeplast is currently raising on StartEngine.

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About: Léa Bouhelier-Gautreau

Léa is passionate about impact investing and sustainability. Prior to KingsCrowd, she worked for Stanford’s accelerator, StartX, helping to select the most promising entrepreneurs. She also led the first award-winning study on the Malawian startup ecosystem. In her free-time, she volunteers to help entrepreneurs in Cameroon, Brazil and Colombia. Léa holds a degree in Anthropology from France and is currently enrolled in the UC Davis MBA program.

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