Trellis Earth: Bioplastics Startup, Raising Cash at $60M Valuation?

A lot of oil companies are dead set against bioplastics, according to Trellis Earth CEO Bill Collins. Since plastics are largely made out of petroleum, many of the oil companies that own bioplastic IP won’t bring the plant-based technology to market, Collins contends. And that creates an opportunity for the Portland, Ore.-based bioplastics startup. (Please appreciate their super-cheesy water cooler biocups shot!)

Trellis Earth, which sells corn-based deliware, cutlery and bags, is only a year old, but Collins said the startup is already looking to raise an $18 million Series A round from a New York investment banking firm and other, private investors. Venture Wire first reported the planned $18 million round, and Collins told us they recently closed a seed round of $1 million.

trellis.jpgCollins also told us his company’s post-money valuation is a whopping $60 million. Whoa there — wishful thinking? We’re not sure, but there is money being made in plant-based and more eco-friendly plastics.

Bioplastics developer Metabolix (MBLX) went public in November, and has partnered with Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) to build a factory. Startup Novomer, which makes alternative plastics out of carbon dioxide and monoxide, said last week that it has raised $6.6 million.

Novomer President Charles Hamilton told us last week that the future of ecoplastics would not be one that is dependent on food crops like corn. We asked Trellis Earth’s Collins what he thought about critics of a corn-based plastic future, and surprisingly, he agreed.

Collins said that while Trellis’ products currently use corn as the biomass, the startup is migrating to a different feedstock and new technology that will be “a synergy between chemistry and non-food crop biomass.” For now, bioplastic producers are largely using corn as a filler because corn is the cheapest choice. But using corn for bioplastics and biofuels contributes to the rise of food crop prices, and being dependent on the variability of food crop cycles can make the supply chain vulnerable.

Whatever these startups use will likely be more green than petroleum. Petroleum-based products don’t degrade, and continue to make up a considerable part of landfills. Of course, traditional plastic is also cheaper right now, but Collins predicted that petroleum-based plastics and bioplastics will have price parity in two years.

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