Podcast 181: Marine magic – from seaweed waste to cosmetic ingredient

Seaweed cosmetic ingredients

Seaweed is an amazing, multipurpose marine plant. It offers a habitat for marine life of all shapes and sizes, grows and regenerates quickly, and has a magical way of helping heal the ocean by absorbing harmful ingredients washed into our oceans by large scale manufacturing and farming. In the context of the global climate crisis, this is highly encouraging.

However, human activity has a nasty way of interfering with the planet’s finely-balanced eco-system, and also affects what nature intended for seaweed. Take for example sargassum seaweed, which, as a result of excessive nutrients being flushed into the ocean, creates massive algal blooms every year that bring with them their own destructive ecological and economic problems.

In 2020, an innovative team of entrepreneurs and STEM experts started to investigate what consumer products could be made from sargassum. Fast forward a year and they became the world’s leading developer of ultra-regenerative, plant-based biomaterials from seaweed. In 2021, they brought to market the world’s first all-natural, sustainable, plant-based emulsifier for cosmetic use, and it has taken the beauty industry by storm.

In this episode, Formula Botanica CEO and podcast host Lorraine Dallmeier talks to Geoff Chapin, CEO and co-founder of Carbonwave, on his inspiration behind the business of upcycling seaweed. If you are interested in hearing more about this amazing marine-based functional cosmetic ingredient, you don’t want to miss this exciting conversation about a field of cosmetic research that is set to grow.

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In this episode with Geoff Chapin, you will hear:

  • Geoff talks about how sargassum has begun to escape the Sargasso Sea boundaries and move south to the oceans surrounding Mexico and the Caribbean. This movement, and subsequent explosion of algae, is due to nutrient runoff from Brazil and the Amazon, where forests are being turned into widescale unsustainable farms. Nutrients, like nitrogen, are flowing into the ocean causing enormous algal blooms that are out of control.
  • Sargassum had not been considered a legitimate biomass alternative to kelp as it is difficult to harvest and process. But as the sargassum problem grew into a 5,000 mile long seaweed ‘island’ absorbing copious runoff nutrients, doubling in size every 12-18 days, choking reefs, killing fish, and releasing methane into the atmosphere as it rots on beaches, Geoff and his team needed to do something.
  • Sargassum is a magical marine plant. It helps the ocean heal itself by absorbing excessive nutrients, providing less overturning of ocean water to regulate temperature, and is extremely efficient in drawing down carbon from the ocean and air to make the manufacturing of many products possible, including biostimulant fertiliser, and silky smooth cosmetic emulsifiers.

Key takeouts include

  • The beauty industry’s response has been overwhelming; some 140-160 companies are currently testing the sargassum-based cosmetic emulsifier Seabalance 2000. Many companies have verified that it works in a pH range from 3.5 – 9, can emulsify oils up to 25%, works in hot and cold processes, has a beautiful silky feel, and a proven moisturising effect stronger than other emulsifiers.
  • Seabalance 2000 is available to indie brands and small-scale formulators through one of Carbonwave’s distributors, Simply Ingredients (see below).
  • Carbonwave is proud to be the first to upcycle a single plant into multiple products from a single ton of biomass used in its entirety. Geoff considers this process his full circle moment. Carbonwave in essence took a plant that had absorbed runoff from unsustainable farming in the Amazon, and returned it to other farms to increase yield, and manufacture a plethora of products for use in farming, cosmetics, textiles, and plastics manufacturing. Carbonwave still has more innovation to come.

Meet our guest

Geoff Chapin CEO CarbonwaveGeoff Chapin is the CEO and Co-founder of Carbonwave, the world’s leading developer of ultra-regenerative, plant-based, advanced biomaterials from seaweed. The company transforms sargassum seaweed—a resource long considered waste, which does not need land or other inputs to grow—into biomaterials, including cosmetic emulsifier Seabalance 2000, that can replace petroleum products and other harmful industrial inputs. In addition to Carbonwave, Geoff also serves as Board Member at E2 and PRIME Coalition. He previously worked at C-change and is a veteran company builder in the green economy. He has ample experience starting and leading businesses in the home energy, efficiency, and solar space, as well as low-energy desalination.

You can find more information on Geoff and his team here:
Seabalance
Carbonwave
Sarga
Seabalance 2000 distributor: Simply Ingredients

There is a wealth of information in our previous episodes, so if you would like to hear more on related topics, do delve back into the podcast archives to listen to:

Episode 168: Lorraine talks about 4 ways that algae (seaweed) can contribute to sustainable beauty.
Episode 59: Anna Brightman of Upcircle Beauty introduces the potential for upcycling ingredients – including waste – for skincare formulations.
Episode 79: Timo von Bargen of the online chemical ingredient platform and search engine Covalo, discusses the potential for sourcing natural ingredients for cosmetics.

Thank you for joining us for this episode of the Formula Botanica Green Beauty Conversations podcast. If you enjoyed listening, please share, subscribe and review this episode on iTunes, Spotify or Youtube so that more people can enjoy the show. Don’t forget to follow and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Lorraine Dallmeier

Lorraine Dallmeier is a Biologist, Chartered Environmentalist and the CEO of Formula Botanica, the award-winning online organic cosmetic science school. Read more about Lorraine and the Formula Botanica Team.

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