Traceless start-up using biomass to substitute plastic

Foil and food packaging going towards biodegradable product - pilot project with Otto
30 September 2021
Johanna Baare and Dr. Anne Lamp, founders of Traceless

The triumph of light, cheap, robust plastic down through the last century has had many advantages, but it is blighting nature. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the World Economic Forum have predicted that by 2050 there could be more plastic than fish floating in the oceans, destroying marine life and all kinds of natural habitats. Given this dire scenario, avoiding and recycling plastic as well as developing alternative substitutes are urgent priorities. Traceless, a Hamburg based start-up, has come up with highly innovative technology using agricultural by-products to make fully compostable storage-stable films, solid materials and wafer-thin coatings. The material retains the same advantageous properties of plastics. 

New material made of food residue

Dr Anne Lamp, who founded the start-up with Johanna Baare in 2020, pointed out: "Traceless materials are based on residual materials from food production, so we avoid the conflict between food and land use. They do not harm people or the environment, as we avoid using chemicals that pose a health risk or damage the environment. Our production saves up to 87 per cent of CO2 over conventional plastic." The two founders' had earlier received funds from Hamburg's "Calls for Transfer" scheme.

Using plant biomass

Lamp has worked on bio-refineries for over six years. Whereas the cultivation of cereals, for instance, uses grain kernel, bio-refineries break down plant biomass into components and use them as fully as possible.

Traceless Materials: Food packaging from biomass
© Traceless Materials
Food packaging from biomass
Traceless Materials: Foils
© Traceless Materials
Traceless Materials: Foils

Pilot project with Otto Group

The founders are keen to develop a circular material, i.e., one that is returned fully to the biological cycle based on the cradle to cradle principle. At present, Lamp and Baare are commissioning their first pilot plant. "That will allow us to execute the first pilot projects from early 2022. We are planning the first pilot for dispatch packaging made of Traceless material with the Otto Group,” said Baare, who manages the commercial side of the business. The collaboration with Traceless is part of the Otto Group’s long-term strategy to reduce waste packaging and make dispatch packaging environment-friendlier.

Approach winning over venture capital investors

Traceless' holistically-sustainable alternative to plastic won second prize at the Future Hamburg Award 2021. And the idea also won over Fridtjof Detzner, initiator of Planet A. The accelerator focuses on impact investing and promotes start-ups that make a sustainable and measurable contribution to achieving at least one of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals. "We closed our first investment round in April  and are proud to have convinced three experienced venture capital investors - Planet A, High-Tech Gründerfonds (HTGF) and b.value AG - who understand our deep-tech solution, share our mission and want to maximise the positive impact with us," said Baare.