CEO/Founder of Oxwash, Kyle Grant – Ep. 61

About Kyle Grant:

Dr. Kyle Grant is an ex-NASA scientist who created a venture-backed start-up called Oxwash.

His company has raised millions of dollars from Silicon Valley VCs like Biz Stone (co-founder of Twitter) and more.

Kyle Grant’s unique take on laundry is already revolutionizing the industry in his native UK. He’s developed groundbreaking new methods for reducing microplastics from laundry, dramatically reducing energy and water consumption, and just generally transforming and disrupting this horribly polluting industry. He’s been listed to Forbes 30 under thirty social entrepreneurs, and his technology will soon make its way to washing machines and facilities around the world.

Full Audio Conversation:

Dr. Kyle Grant links

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3:17 – “I’ll be completely honest, I kind of stumbled into the laundry and cleaning space completely by accident when I was doing a Ph.D. at Oxford University in something called synthetic biology.”

5:50 – “I was back doing a undergraduate honours degree at Cardiff University, the capital of Wales, here in the UK, and it was all around microbiology and then kind of segued into doing a project on using algae as a life support system basis rather than pretty harsh scrubbing chemicals.”

9:23 – “[Laundry is] really, really ripe for innovation, because… there’s a lot of technologies that have been maybe developed in some industries that just have never had a look in in washing.”

11:32 – “So when you look at, let’s say, a kilogram of laundry that somebody generates either in their business or the home, and then they send it to somebody else to wash and then bring it back, about 40 percent of the CO2 emitted is in the logistics—just moving the shit from that person or business to the washing facility and back.”

15:22 – “We also try to wash things cold. So whatever temperature water comes out—the cold tap—we wash at that temperature, by and large. And that’s great because it saves enormously on energy costs.”

16:36 – “We generate ozone gas from the air that we breathe in something called a corona, basically by flowing through a lightning storm in a tube. And then we bubble that up through the laundry as it’s washing. And that oxidizes all the bacteria, fungi, viruses critically, and has the added bonus of any body odor and nasty smells? It gets rid of that and deodorizes as well. So there’s a couple of different pieces of the washing puzzle, to wet your whistle.”

20:33 – “The long term effects of [microplastics in our body], we just don’t know. Because the concentration of microplastics is really only starting to peak in the last five years. So what happens if horrible blood clotting and downstream health issues only occur 20 years later in a certain threshold of concentration? We wouldn’t know that yet.”

22:38 – “So no new washing machines past 2023 will be able to be sold without a microfiber filter.”

25:24 – “And shellfish. So bivalves, mollusks, fish, crustaceans. In fact, they’re a high concentration of microfibers because they typically filter the water to feed.”

29:35 – “we’ve been able to demonstrate that through that kind of open honesty people are listening. And interestingly, fashion and the industry around the circularization of clothing is starting to pay a really big role in our growth.”

34:00 – “The pandemic really hit us in the teeth. You know, back in February/March of last year, all service businesses like ours kind of fell off a cliff, especially the ones that served hospitality, you know, restaurants, hotels, bars, anywhere where people go. We were like, oh shit!”

39:00 – “The Elevate program is run by the folks at Foundry, which is a separate entity to the Oxford Business School, which is typically where you go from to get an MBA or become a chartered accountant, things like that. But it’s a very, very bespoke and welcoming environment. It’s where people that actually want to get shit done go.:

45:04 – “I think for the most part, [accolades] make the biggest difference to the team, right? It’s the people that you’re working alongside where they can feel like the hours and extra hours often that are being put in are being recognized by other people than just their colleagues and peers.”

47:15 – “We don’t need to boil shit to get it clean. You can use technology to do that. I think also the macro one is that you *can* have profitability and save the planet at the same time. I think historically, people have seen those two things as mutually exclusive, which they’re not.”

51:19 – “I think the pandemic’s awful, don’t get me wrong. But maybe one of the tiny silver linings has been a reset in the work/life balance for many people, which I think was overdue for sure.”

Oxwash RESEARCH NOTES: 

Scale of the problem

“It is estimated that there are now trillions of microplastic particles in the marine environment.

“For example, some of our own research has shown that up to 94,500 microbeads could be released from an exfoliant in a single use; and that a single 6kg load of washing could release over 700,000 fibres to waste water. Some of these are likely to pass through waste water treatment and into the environment.

Source: https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/discover/are-microplastics-a-big-problem

Threat to wildlife 

“Microplastics, however, can also exist on beaches and in deeper waters of the oceans where animals feed, and it’s here the main large scale threats to wildlife exist.

“Animals can become entangled in large pieces of plastic – which can cause physical distress and even death – but the main problem is marine wildlife mistaking micro- and nanoplastics for food. Once ingested, they can cause gut blockage, physical injury, changes to oxygen levels in cells in the body, altered feeding behaviour and reduced energy levels, which impacts growth and reproduction.”

Source: https://edu.rsc.org/feature/the-massive-problem-of-microplastics/2000127.article

Written by Camilla Alexander-White 

Potential harm 

“The mere presence of microplastics in fish, earthworms and other species is unsettling, but the real harm is done if microplastics linger—especially if they move out of the gut and into the bloodstream and other organs. Scientists including Browne have observed signs of physical damage, such as inflammation, caused by particles jabbing and rubbing against organ walls.”

Source: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/from-fish-to-humans-a-microplastic-invasion-may-be-taking-a-toll/

Written by Andrea Thompson 

Damage human cells

“Microplastics cause damage to human cells in the laboratory at the levels known to be eaten by people via their food, a study has found.”

According to Evangelos Danopoulos, of Hull York Medical School, UK, and who led the research published in the Journal of Hazardous Materials, “harmful effects on cells are in many cases the initiating event for health effects. We should be concerned. Right now, there isn’t really a way to protect ourselves.”

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/dec/08/microplastics-damage-human-cells-study-plastic

Written by Damian Carrington

Ingested by humans

“Kettles and baby bottles also shed microplastics, Li and other researchers, at Trinity College Dublin, reported last October. If parents prepare baby formula by shaking it up in hot water inside a plastic bottle, their infant might end up swallowing more than one million microplastic particles each day.

“From limited surveys of microplastics in the air, water, salt and seafood, children and adults might ingest anywhere from dozens to more than 100,000 microplastic specks each day, Albert Koelmans, an environmental scientist at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, reported.”

Source: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-01143-3

Written by XiaoZhi Lim

Hubs for pathogens, antibiotic-resistant bacteria

“A number of recent studies have focused on the negative impacts that millions of tons of microplastic waste a year is having on our freshwater and ocean environments, but until now the role of microplastics in our towns’ and cities’ wastewater treatment processes has largely been unknown,” said Mengyan Li, associate professor of chemistry and environmental science at NJIT and the study’s corresponding author. “These wastewater treatment plants can be hotspots where various chemicals, antibiotic-resistant bacteria and pathogens converge and what our study shows is that microplastics can serve as their carriers, posing imminent risks to aquatic biota and human health if they bypass the water treatment process.”

Source: https://news.njit.edu/study-shows-microplastic-waste-becomes-hubs-pathogens-antibiotic-resistant-bacteria

Written by Jesse Jenkins

Present in soil

“While plastic can be beneficial to agriculture, its widespread use also raises concerns about its impact on public health and the environment when it degrades.

“This is especially concerning for the world’s soils. When microplastics from mulching film build up in surface soils, for example, they reduce agricultural yields. There is also a concern that microplastics in agricultural soils could work their way up the food chain to harm human health. Some plastics contain toxic chemicals themselves, and plastics can also collect and transport diseases and chemicals when they enter the ocean.”

Source: https://www.ecowatch.com/plastics-in-agriculture-health-effects-2655937899.html

Written by Olivia Rosane

Plastic is not the root of the problem

“It’s easy to paint plastic as the great evil of our age. Yet, Tom argues that plastic itself isn’t necessarily the problem, it’s what we do with it. Each one of us can make small changes to adapt the bigger picture.” 

Source: https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/connectonline/research/2018/the-big-problem-of-microplastics.aspx

Written by Faye Haslam

What needs to be addressed

“According to the WEF, the eight million tonnes of plastic which finds its way into our oceans every year is equivalent to dumping the contents of one garbage truck into the sea every minute.  

“If no action is taken, this amount is expected to increase to two garbage trucks per minute by 2030 and four per minute by 2050. In a business-as-usual scenario, the ocean is expected to contain one tonne of plastic for every three tonnes of fish by 2025, and by then, there will be more plastic than fish.”

Source: https://theaseanpost.com/article/problem-microplastics

Public understanding of plastic pollution 

“Most people were unaware of microplastics though environmentally conscious participants had heard of microbeads due to media reporting concerning regulation.” 

“The scale of microplastics (not easily detected), poor understanding of the science behind microplastics and cultural ideas about healthy and appropriate behaviour presents barriers to change. Science communicators, NGOs, industry and policy makers must take account of media representations and the culturally embedded nature of plastics in society.”

Source: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0025326X20300266

Authors: Lesley Henderson and Christopher Green

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