Inter IKEA has signed a development and access agreement with Auckland, New Zealand-based NILO, a deep-tech startup company that has developed and patented a plastic waste-derived adhesive for use in the production of wood-based boards. The investment aligns with the company’s sustainability commitments, which includes switching from fossil-based to bio-based glues for board production. 

As part of this agreement, Inter IKEA Development B.V. has acquired a 12.5% stake in NILO and Andrew McIntosh, innovation partnership leader at IKEA Innovation Ventures, has joined NILO’s board of directors.

“IKEA is committed to our strategy of being People and Planet Positive. The investment in NILO shows our commitment to working with innovative startups that can support and help accelerate the IKEA material innovation agenda. NILO’s approach to the creation of this adhesive shows real potential, and we are hopeful the collaboration will be mutually beneficial” said McIntosh. “The performance and physical qualities show promise and we want to support NILO and help develop the adhesive with a mutual ambition to get it into scaled trials. From our position as a shareholder we can support the path forward and look forward to working closely with the management and board of NILO.”

The world faces a non-degradable plastic waste challenge, as 350 million tons of plastic waste are generated every year. Only 9% of plastic is recycled, leaving the rest in landfills, incinerators, and waterways. NILO’s team of chemists and engineers have created technology that repurposes this plastic waste.

The result is a non-toxic adhesive that both addresses the plastic recycling challenge and can replace one of the world’s most prevalent adhesives, urea formaldehyde. While urea formaldehyde is a highly effective and durable material with a long history in the wood-based board industry, it has a high carbon footprint and a few more crucial flaws. There is currently no scalable alternative underlying the significance of the issue.

“This is a fabulous moment for NILO,” said Glen Willoughby, NILO’s CEO. “Our team has worked tirelessly on this, and to have our technology recognized by one of the world’s leading firms with deep expertise in the wood-based board market provides huge validation of what NILO has created. The knowledge and expertise Inter IKEA will bring will help NILO progress our technology immensely.”

Willoughby said NILO’s vision extends beyond urea formaldehyde to utilize the enormous volumes of plastic waste of grades and types currently not readily recycled to create a range of adhesives for use in different industrial applications. NILO is committed to ensuring that the performance and pricing of these adhesives are comparable to existing market alternatives so that they can readily be adapted into the value chain. Additionally, the end-of-life products created with NILO adhesives will also be able to be reprocessed into new products, an essential for the circular economy.

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