Swiss startup that filters plastics out of water is eyeing U.S. and China markets

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A Swiss startup that sells a high-tech filter that removes pathogens from water, including plastic particles, is up and running almost a year after a crowdfunding campaign that helped it raise the funds needed to launch a product for home use.

Novamem is now selling about 100 of its DrinkPure filters a month, according to Chief Executive Christoph Kellenberger. The company raised more than $70,000 with its Kickstarter campaign, comfortably above its initial target of $40,000.

Novamem scaled back early plans to take DrinkPure everywhere from China to India to the U.S. and is now taking a more step-by-step approach, building its presence in Switzerland and Germany and expanding through an Amazon.com Inc. AMZN, -0.20% sales channel that will eventually serve all of Europe, Kellenberger said.

“I was surprised to find so many customers in Switzerland, where tap-water quality is good, but we have really struck a nerve,” Kellenberger told MarketWatch. “Health is becoming a bigger issue, and people rally care about what they eat and drink and consume.”

The company used the proceeds of the crowdfunding campaign to buy injection molds and tools and to pay for marketing and shipping. The campaign also attracted orders for more than 1,000 units, helping get the business off to a healthy start. Novamem is now talking to potential partners in China, and it’s planning to come to the U.S.

The DrinkPure filter is made using a polymer flat-sheet membrane that has a very high asymmetric structure, meaning it has a number of thin layers with different structures and permeabilities. This structure allows water to pass readily through the membrane, while biological contaminants, such as bacteria, are retained.

Don’t miss: How to invest in water: A long-term bet on an essential commodity with limited supply

Also: Water play Evoqua’s stock slides for a second day after earnings miss

The membrane is combined with other filter media (i.e., sediment pre-filter and activated carbon, which allow it to not only filter bacteria but also other contaminants that render tap water undrinkable without losing its high flux rate).

Novamem initially developed the technology for use in outdoor water filtration.

Novamem

A basic DrinkPure costs $68.99 and can simply be screwed on to a faucet. The filter can be used to purify up to 130 gallons of water, and a replacement costs just $25. The company is expecting to help reduce the use of plastic bottles, which are not just expensive but also wasteful. It takes about three liters of tap water to produce a single liter of bottled water.

Read now: Almost 6 billion people will suffer from water shortages by 2050, U.N. report finds

Americans are drinking more bottled water than ever, and the category is the leader in the nonalcoholic-beverage market, according to industry tracker Beverage Marketing Corp.

But with many of those bottles ending up in the world’s oceans, damaging water quality and harming wildlife, environmentalists are fighting back. Companies are getting on board, too, with McDonald’s Corp. MCD, +0.45% , Starbuck’s Corp. SBUX, +1.03% and major hotel chains scrapping single-use plastic straws.

The Invesco Water Resources ETF was up 0.5% on Monday and has gained 19% in the last 12 months. The S&P 500 SPX, +0.26% has gained 18% in the same period, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.38% has added 19%.

Read: America’s water crisis is way bigger than Flint

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