September 1, 2021

From Plastic To Crude Oil – Get In The Ring Award-winner Plastic Back Raises Funding From Unknown Group To Scale Chemical Oxidation Technology

In the four minutes needed to read this, approximately 4 million single-use plastic bottles will have been bought worldwide. The average person ingests 5 grams – equivalent to a credit card – of microplastics every week from the air we breathe and the food we eat. The disposal of plastic waste is a global challenge – one that directly and indirectly affects each person on the planet. We believe the best way to combat this is by empowering and fueling founders of innovative technologies to scale their solutions. 


Plastic Back – the newest venture in our portfolio and Rising Star Award Winner at the Get in the Ring Global Finals 2021 –  uses a chemical oxidation process to break plastic down to crude oil, waxes and other valuable chemicals. The converted end products can be upcycled by the petrochemical industry, contributing to a more circular economy.  As a turnkey solution, we see great potential for Plastic Back’s technology to be applied by waste handlers like landfills as well as waste manufacturers in agriculture, factories, hospitals and medical devices.


Plastic Back was founded in 2018 by Tal Cohen, previously Marine Biologist and Deep Sea Diver, who became acutely aware of the plastic disposal crisis from his daily dives for field surveys and lab work. “I truly believe that we can create change in the recycling industry”, says Cohen. “At Plastic Back, we are working to get more players, drive consumer awareness and are exploring how we can push stronger regulations on plastics within the market”.


We met Plastic Back in 2019, having scouted their innovative technology for the New Energy Challenge, where they were awarded Runners Up of the Gamechanger Track out of over 200 companies. They are working with Shell on a project designed to validate their plastic-derived oil for refinery integration. On the New Energy Challenge, Cohen said: “The New Energy Challenge was an invaluable experience in gaining recognition for our solution, a Proof of Concept from an end customer like Shell, as well as direct feedback on our process”. 


When asked about why Plastic Back chose Unknown as an investor, Cohen pointed towards Unknown’s expertise in identifying and scaling CleanTech solutions and a positive connection from the New Energy Challenge. “We’ve reached a point where we want to expand our services in the European market. Unknown’s scaling network and expertise in this will help us reach the right audience and customers in the EU.”, he adds.


Plastic Back is the third Israel-based venture that we have invested in this year. In May, we announced an investment in 6Degrees, a motion-based and touch-free wearable for people with disabilities, which was followed by our investment in Grasshopper protein pioneer, Hargol FoodTech in July. Each of these solutions provides tangible, scalable and potentially game-changing technologies to global challenges, showing why Israel’s tech ecosystem was ranked #3 only behind the USA and UK in StartupBlink’s Global Startup Ecosystem Index 2021. Plastic Back, Hargol and 6Degrees are all recent winners of our Get in the Ring Global Startup Competition


Hendrik Halbe, CEO of Unknown Group said: “We’ve been very impressed with the boldness and unconventional nature of Plastic Back’s solution. Investing in visionary and impactful founders like Tal is another great example of how Unknown is unlocking the talent of the world to combat and overcome global challenges”.


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About Unknown Group

Unknown is an early-stage venture capital and business development firm, supporting founders and industry leaders to successfully bring innovations to the market: a “Venture Engine®”. With a fresh approach delivering venture success, lining up the industry and creating a pool of solutions ready to be adopted by the market.


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Rayhaan Imam