Carbon plant backed

Coffee cup recycler Carbogenics set for production

Jan Mumme: major milestone

A university spinout company, which has developed an environmental benefit from takeaway coffee cups, has received a funding package to set up a production centre.

Carbogenics turns difficult-to-recycle paper waste including disposable coffee containers into a fertiliser.

The start-up, created at Edinburgh University, has raised nearly £500,000 in an investment led by Techstart Ventures and will establish a base in Perthshire.

Techstart is joined in the seed investment round by Old College Capital, the University’s venture fund, and private investors.

Carbogenics takes low-value paper waste and turns it into CreChar, a carbon-rich porous material. The company’s first application of its product adds CreChar to the feed material of anaerobic digestion plants. 

This significantly increases the plant’s output and can reduce feedstock costs. At the end of its life, CreChar is returned to the soil to work as fertiliser and lock away carbon for hundreds of years, offering significant carbon savings. 

The production of CreChar reduces carbon dioxide emissions by up to half when compared with incineration of paper waste, and every tonne of CreChar produced and added to the biogas production process could save a total of 10 tonnes of CO2 through increased biogas generation and reduction of emissions.

Europe’s 20,000 AD plants present a potential market of 1 million tonnes of CreChar a year, which would reduce emissions by 10 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent a year, equal to a quarter of Scotland’s annual CO2 emissions, and would sequester carbon into the soil equivalent to 1 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year.

The UK currently exports 4 million tonnes of paper waste for incineration in other countries, which is more than enough to produce sufficient CreChar to supply Europe’s AD plants.

Variants of CreChar targeted at other applications will be launched in 2020.

Major milestone

The fundraising supports the first phase of an ambitious growth plan. Carbogenics will build a pilot production facility in Perthshire, seek to prove its first product in industrial AD plants, and expand its team. 

Carbogenics co-founder and CEO Dr Jan Mumme, said: “The seed investment is a major milestone for Carbogenics. We will now accelerate our progress towards launching CreChar on the anaerobic digestion market and we look forward to growing our team and product range over the next year. 

“There are billions of tonnes of waste out there that our technology can turn into new sustainable carbon products to create value for our clients and the environment.” 

Techstart, which specialises in seed investment for ambitious early stage companies based in Scotland and Northern Ireland, provided considerable support to the company during the investment process. Carbogenics is the ninth investment from Techstart’s new Scottish fund, which was launched earlier this year.

Robert Richmond, Investment Director, Techstart Ventures, said: “Carbogenics’ ambition is to be the market leader in carbon upcycling and we’re delighted to support the company with this investment.”

Old College Capital is managed by Edinburgh Innovations (EI), the University’s commercialisation service, which has supported the Carbogenics founders throughout their entrepreneurial process.

Carbogenics was launched by co-founders Dr Jan Mumme, Franziska Srocke and Lidia Krzynowek on the basis of work by Dr Mumme in the University’s School of GeoSciences. Formerly a researcher in Germany, he relocated to Edinburgh to work at the University’s UK Biochar Research Centre and to establish his specialist spinout company in Edinburgh’s vibrant ecosystem.

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