A Footballer Wants to Turn the World Green

Matthieu Flamini

Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

GFBiochemicals Ltd., the Italian green chemical company started by Crystal Palace midfielder Mathieu Flamini, will build a biorefinery in the U.S. to make plastics and solvents in a way that avoids using fossil fuels.

The company, founded in 2008 by Flamini and his business partner Pasquale Granata, joined with biotech company American Process Inc. to redevelop an old industrial site into a cellulosic biorefinery, according to a statement by the two companies on Friday.

GFBiochemicals’ plant in Caserta, Italy, about 28 miles (45 kilometers) outside Naples, is the largest producer of levulinic acid, a little-known chemical that comes from plants and that can be used to make environmentally-friendly fuels, plastics and food preservatives. The closely-held company estimates the market eventually may be worth $10 billion.

“This is an important first step in our strategy to partner with major market players in the bioeconomy,” Flamini said in an emailed statement.

API’s existing biorefinery in Georgia takes biomass to produce cellulosic sugars. GFBiochemicals wants to use those sugars to produce levulinic acid for use in a range of applications. It can go into solvents and plasticisers, which make brittle items more flexible.

The companies didn’t disclose the value of the investment. The plant will be able to create as much as 50,000 tons to 200,000 tons of the material a year, according to the press release. It would be a major step beyond the roughly 10,000 tons a year that GFBiochemicals can produce from its current plant in Italy.

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