The innovative startup Carbonwave is turning a nuisance seaweed washing up on Florida beaches into functional biologically created materials, Axios reports. The company — which has locations in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Mexico — is creating products that have uses for a range of industries.
For the past 12 years, the Atlantic and Caribbean regions have been experiencing exceptional blooms of a seaweed called sargassum, Axios says. Sargassum is a plant that provides food and habitat to animals in the open ocean. During blooms, it grows out of control, creating huge floating mats in the ocean that drift to shore and clog beaches, leading to unpleasant or even unhealthy conditions for visitors. It smells like rotten eggs when it decomposes, and it houses sea life that can irritate human skin.
In 2018, the region had a record-setting bloom, with around 9 million tons of sargassum turning up that March, Axios reports. This March, the tally rose to 13 million tons — and we haven’t even reached the peak months of June and July.
Enter Carbonwave, which Axios says will turn this problem into an asset. The company processes seaweed into multiple different assets, including fertilizers, emulsifiers for use in cosmetics, and even a vegan leather alternative.
According to Axios, the company originally intended to farm seaweed, but with so much lying on beaches waiting to be cleared away, it chose to shift its focus. Instead, Carbonwave has contracted with several Florida resorts to remove the seaweed, and the company is also seeking deals with local municipalities.
This is a smart business model for Carbonwave: The company gets paid for removing the sargassum, and then paid again for the materials it produces from the seaweed. In the process, the company seeks to make the most of the seaweed’s natural ability to pull harmful carbon pollution from the environment. Meanwhile, beachgoers get a more enjoyable experience, and manufacturers get plant-based agricultural inputs, as well as eco-friendly alternatives to both oil-based emulsifiers and faux leathers made from plastic.
Thanks to its quick thinking, the company has attracted multiple investors and secured almost $13 million of funding, with another $2 million likely on the way, Axios reports.
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