Danville business gets $8M investment in technology that breaks down clothing to raw materials to be used again

Tyton BioSciences is getting $8 million from four companies investing in its technology that recycles textiles for making clothing.

The company, located in the Dan River Business Development Center at 300 Ringgold Industrial Parkway, takes discarded clothing and breaks it down to its building blocks so it can be made into new clothing.

“We do that by using our proprietary technology to convert waste textiles into pulp and polyester monomers [building blocks] for fiber and yarn manufacturers to make new yarn,” said Tyton CEO Peter Majeranowski.

The company separates the polyester and cotton from clothes that have been thrown away.

Through a hydro-thermal process, Tyton takes the polyester from clothing and breaks it down into its raw materials. For that process, water is heated to a certain temperature and pressure so it can cut through the polyester’s molecules.

“Once you have the raw materials, you can make polyester again,” said Tyton co-founder and chief technology officer Iulian Bobe.

As for the cotton, it is broken down into pulp to be made into various cellulosic fibers for clothing production, Bobe said.

The raw materials for the cotton and polyester can each be made into yarn to produce clothing again.

The $8 million comes from Tin Shed Ventures — the investment arm of the outdoor apparel brand Patagonia, Marubeni Americas, Card Sound Capital and Alante Capital.

Marubeni is a Japanese conglomerate with more than 40,000 employees worldwide that supplies finished garments to major brands around the world.

Card Sound Capital and Alante Capital are impact investors. Impact investments are those made with the purpose of generating a positive social and environmental impact as well as a financial return.

The investment in Tyton’s technology is significant because fashion is one of the largest polluters in the world, contributing 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions because of its long supply chains and energy-intensive production, Majeranowski said. That’s more than from the aviation and marine shipping industries (about 2%) combined, he said.

The fashion industry produces about 20% of the world’s wastewater, Bobe said.

In addition, clothing production doubled between 2000 and 2014, with the average consumer buying 60% more garments compared to 15 years ago and each clothing item being kept half as long.

Tyton BioSciences is a company that develops solutions to protect the planet form human consumption, Majeranowski said.

“Instead of using natural resources from cotton, trees or oil to make new clothing, we can use waste processed by Tyton’s technology to provide the textile supply chain with the needed raw material commodities to make new clothing,” Majeranowski said.

Linwood Wright, consultant with the Danville Economic Development Office, said he was “delighted that they got the funding.”

“They are able to take used textile material and re-act it in a very environmentally friendly way,” Wright said. “This should benefit Danville by virtue of it being a game-changing way to recycle textile material and I hope that it is the start of a strong high-technology cluster in Danville.”

Tyton started out in 2012 and used to extract oils and sugars from tobacco to make biofuels such as ethanol and biodiesel. But oil prices dropped and “the investor appetite for biofuels fell out of favor,” Majeranowski said.

“We started looking for applications of our technology that were relevant,” he said.

The company began focusing on tree-free pulp for clothing about three years ago with a $1.5 million grant from the Virginia Tobacco Commission.

A lot of the $8 million is going into equipment, intellectual property and salaries, he said.

“The textile industry currently uses 150 million trees per year to make materials like rayon, viscose, modal and lyocell,” he said. “The grant funding helped us develop the technology and catalyze this additional $8 million investment from the private sector.”

Less than two years ago, Tyton joined the Scaling Program at Fashion for Good, a nonprofit backed by some of the largest brands like Adidas, Target, PVH, Kering Group and others to find new technologies to reduce the environmental impact from the fashion industry.

The company has 12 employees and will hire more as Tyton grows, Majeranowski said.

Crane reports for the Register & Bee. He can be reached at (434) 791-7987. Read article here.