“We are committed to developing products that reflect our conscious consumption philosophy”

By developing a wood-based composite material, Dongnam Realize is making both plastic replacement and carbon sequestration a reality through the large scale industrialization of sustainably-managed forests. Dongnam Realize was the first Asian company rewarded in the Sustainability category at the JEC World’s Startup Booster. We discussed with CEO Linda Hyun the startup’s recent developments and the perspectives it is now following up. This interview has been published in the JEC Composites Magazine N°148.

“We are committed to developing products that reflect our conscious consumption philosophy”

5 minutes, 20 secondes

JEC Composites Magazine: Can you summarize your company’s history?
Linda Hyun: Our Cellulose X-linked Polymer (CXP) technology came to solve a tricky issue involving Korean forests. There is a high ratio of forest to the total country area (about 65% of Korea is covered by vegetation) and the forests are dense, which makes it hard for the trees to have plenty of nutrients to grow as they must compete with nearby trees. As a result, they end up not being fully developed, and the logs are not suitable for use in civil construction. Due to its low attached value, National Korean wood is mainly used for wood chips and pellets. This created a vicious cycle in Korea: low-quality wood that is hard to be used leads to younger, not fully-developed trees being cut down, which lowers the capacity of forests to absorb carbon and their overall value. CXP technology can improve the properties of such deficient wood for use in a myriad of applications. Even small branches, not only the main logs, can be repurposed into CXP pellets in order to minimize waste and prevent the CO2 captured in the branches from returning to the atmosphere.

Cellulose X-linked Polymer (CXP) doesn’t need plastic to have plastic-like properties

JEC Composites Magazine: Could you explain where your technology concept comes from and your relationship with composites?
Linda Hyun: The idea came from the wood-plastic composite (WPC) materials widely used in the construction industry. Although they are frequently advertised as being suitable for outdoor use (such as benches and decks), these materials can easily be bent or broken over the years. WPC are a combination of plastic and wood, so we thought: why not combine these two materials in a way to avoid deformities? Or even better, getting rid of the plastic part altogether? It turns out that CXP wood does not need plastic at all to have plastic-like properties.

Of course, the similarity with WPC makes people think that CXP is another kind of plastic-wood, but this issue was quickly solved when we received a PEFC certification, which is granted only to wooden products that are sustainable all along the chain. This helps clear the confusion that there might be some plastics mixed in the recipe.

JEC Composites Magazine: Where is your company today and what are the main products you offer? Where are you now in terms of development?
Linda Hyun: Since JEC World 2022, we have tested new products with government bodies and private companies, joined various online marketplaces, expanded our warehouse and headquarters, participated in other exhibitions and seminars, developed new grades of CXP wood, and developed a plan to open a proprietary factory this year.

Our company is currently in the process of being verified by the market, both manufacturers and consumers. Our most basic grade, CXP-SD, is already used by several manufacturers. We also work with retailers, and among them our best sellers are our handle plates, toothbrushes, cups and mugs, soap dishes and Sodam tumblers.

Regarding development, we have just released two new grades of CXP: EL and HI, high ductility and high intensity, respectively. CXP-HI is ideal for items that need to be strong despite being constantly assembled and disassembled, or flaps and folds, while CXP-EL is intended for items that require some stretchiness, such as watch bands and phone cases. Of course, there are a myriad of materials in the market that can meet all the different types of demands. We are evolving CXP to turn it into a complete family of grades that can meet the properties required by different manufacturers willing to move away from toxic plastics and welcome CXP wood into their factories. We are committed to developing products that reflect our conscious consumption philosophy, purchases that are actually good for the planet and help it heal from the damage that rampant consumerism has caused.

CXP is a smart solution that replace easily general-use plastics

JEC Composites Magazine: What are the specific properties and key benefits of CXP products/ technology?
Linda Hyun: CXP is the only thermosoftening wood in the market, which means it is the most readily available material to replace general-use plastics. Not only in terms of properties, but it is also quite affordable in comparison to other technologies, as CXP does not require high-quality wood as a source material. It is a complete solution, and one that can help companies overhaul their environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategy with one simple step: exchanging plastics for CXP, which is compatible with injection and extrusion machinery. This means there is no need to pause production while the factory is being refitted with new machines. On top of that, making wooden products instead of plastic ones means that the recent wave of plastic bans all over the world is no longer a concern.

For the users of CXP products, the main benefit is a healthier life. When using plastic products, people are exposed to toxic substances that are added during manufacturing, as well as microplastics − tiny plastic particles that shed from products. Microplastic contamination is one of the most difficult to tackle, because unlike pieces that you can see with your naked eye and catch with your hands, microplastics enter our system through airways and the food we eat, since the environment is heavily polluted. Contamination of the human body with plastic toxins causes various health damages. Everyone should be on the lookout to minimize the use of plastics, especially for items that touch the mouth or that are used to prepare food.

A wide range of final products

JEC Composites Magazine: In which sectors do you work the most?
Linda Hyun: It is different when it comes to the products we sell. For end-products, like the ones we sell through our zero-waste brand Carbon Storage, our main sectors are retail and forestry. We supply our CXP products to other zero-waste shops and governmental organizations in the forestry sector. As for the pellets, we supply them to the companies manufacturing our Carbon Storage products, that cover items from bathroom, kitchen, office and home interior goods.

JEC Composites Magazine: Have you been approached by major accounts?
Linda Hyun: Yes. Although we cannot disclose their name, we have been working with them for a long time.

JEC Composites Magazine: What are the next steps for your company/products?
Linda Hyun: We are working hard to establish and secure a position on the international market. We have started exporting our Carbon Storage products and materials abroad, but we are still far from our goal of replacing most of the plastics used to manufacture new goods worldwide.

To reach this goal, we are looking for international partners, developing more CXP grades that will unlock a new range of markets, and designing products that resonate with customers’ desire for a healthier day-to-day life. We want Carbon Storage products to be omnipresent in one’s life, mindlessly integrated, instead of being that one item they want to buy or reach for when they feel like decluttering plastics from their home once in a while. We will also cultivate and sustainably manage forests to gather the wood resources for CXP manufacturing. In doing this, we cannot only help the global environment but also create socially-sustainable jobs. Last but not least, we are also doing research work to develop and install new sources of clean energy to power our factory and operations. We strive to be as carbon negative as possible, therefore maximizing our positive impact on the environment.

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