Singapore maker of biodegradable straws secures $18m funding

A local biotech start-up that makes eco-drinking straws has closed a US$13 million (S$18 million) Series A2 funding round.

The financing will allow RWDC Industries to expand production at its United States plant, the start-up announced yesterday.

The funding round was co-led by venture capital firms Vickers Venture Partners and WI Harper Group, with finance firm Ridgevale Enterprises and individual investors also participating.

RWDC also landed two new directors in the process - Vickers chairman and co-founding partner Finian Tan and WI Harper chairman Peter Liu.

RWDC develops biodegradable bioplastic that can be used to make cutlery, drinking straws, cup lids, food and beverage packaging, and diapers. It produces polyhydroxyalkanoate (mcl-PHA), which is naturally produced by bacterial fermentation of plant-based oils or sugar.

Its PHA is certified to be fully biodegradable in soil, water and marine conditions.

In July, RWDC secured separate financing of $980,000 through Temasek Foundation Ecosperity's Liveability Challenge.

These funds are being used to make fully biodegradable drinking straws made of PHA. Prototypes are due by the year end, with commercial quantities to be produced from mid-2019.

The Series A2 funding announced yesterday will be used to expand RWDC's PHA production capacity in the US state of Georgia to 2,000 tonnes a year.

The firm said this expansion would make it among the world's largest PHA producers by early next year.

RWDC executive chairman Roland Wee said in a statement: "We are extremely excited and focused on the expansion of our PHA facility in the US, as this marks our first step towards producing PHA at commercially affordable prices for the global market. We have concrete plans to scale up very quickly from here."

Vickers' Dr Tan said: "Every year, the world produces several hundred metric tonnes of plastic, mostly destined for single-use products that persist in the environment after disposal and create a huge plastic pollution problem that the world is increasingly acutely aware of.

"While it is unrealistic to curb the massive demand for plastic - especially in emerging markets where consumption is on a constant rise - we can still power innovators such as RWDC to develop a commercially attractive solution to a longstanding socio-ecological problem."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 11, 2018, with the headline 'Singapore maker of biodegradable straws secures $18m funding'. Print Edition | Subscribe