CycleWood Solutions Launches Compostable Consumer Trash Bags

Technology firm grew out of U of A entrepreneurship program

 A technology company whose growth was cultivated by the Arkansas Research and Technology Park has launched a sustainable alternative to the high-density plastic bags currently used in stores. And a local business is now selling them.

Nhiem Cao, president and chief executive officer of cycleWood Solutions Inc., said the company’s trademarked single-use Xylobag is a strong and tough compostable substitute for traditional plastic bags. The Xylobag blends lignin, an abundant organic polymer that is most commonly derived from wood, with a compostable material.

Lignin is a byproduct from paper mills and biofuel plants, so no additional trees or plants need to be harvested to produce Xylobags. The bag has been certified compostable by the Biodegradable Products Institute and will break down in as little as 12 weeks in a commercial composting facility.

“They are also the most sustainable choice since they do not require additional harvesting of trees or other plants,” Cao said. “Xylobags are the best compostable bags available today.”

Ozark Natural Foods in Fayetteville, which began stocking Xylobags last month, will host a “Meet the Founders” promotion for cycleWood Solutions at 1 p.m. Friday, Aug. 8. The store, at 1554 N. College Ave., is in the Evelyn Hills Shopping Center.

“We just got commitments from two other chains to carry our bags,” Cao said. “We expect to be on their shelves toward the end of August or September.”

Cao incorporated cycleWood Solutions with co-founder Kevin Oden in the fall of 2011, and they maintain an office at the Arkansas Research and Technology Park in Fayetteville. They are both graduates of the University of Arkansas, each holding a bachelor’s degree in engineering and a master of business administration.

Cao and Oden have collected accolades, cash awards and investors since developing the business concept for cycleWood Solutions in 2011 with other M.B.A. students in the New Venture Development class taught by management professor Carol Reeves in the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the U of A.

“Carol’s class gave us a great foundation for our startup,” Cao said. “The exposure from the business plan competitions combined with what we learned from the class was a great combination that led to a great opportunity. The entrepreneurship program at the Walton College Graduate School of Business was the launching pad we needed.”

In 2012, cycleWood Solutions received an Edison Award, one of the highest honors a company can receive in the name of innovation and business. The Xylobag was assessed by a panel of more than 3,000 judges and, after a long peer-review process, the team was presented with a bronze Edison Award, named after the American inventor Thomas Edison.

By that time, cycleWood Solutions had established a presence in the Genesis Technology Incubator at the Arkansas Research and Technology Park. Although Cao and Oden have since moved their primary operations to Dallas, Cao attributes the company’s growth to starting out at the park.

“The Arkansas Research and Technology Park gave us access to resources that we otherwise would not have had,” he said. “Having an office and access to standard office equipment may not seem like a big deal, but it gave us a home. In some ways it made us real. We still have an office at the park and continue to utilize their resources. In addition to office space, we also had access to labs to run some of our early experiments. The help from the park is an integral piece of our company’s story.”

Kevin Oden received is BSIE in 2007

Contacts:

Nhiem Cao, president and CEO
cycleWood Solutions Inc.
479-304-2871, nhiem.cao@cyclewood.com

Chris Branam, research communications writer/editor
University Relations
479-575-4737, cwbranam@uark.edu