Materials in Works

Materials in Works

“Think circular, less is more”

Materials In Works

Founded by a group of enthusiastic packaging material experts, the Malaysia-based start-up Materials In Works (MIW) is tackling global warming and environmental pollution by reintroducing residual paper liner from the label packaging industry back into the value chain as recovered cellulose pulp. Thus, the start-up prevents the valuable paper liner residues from ending up in landfills and focuses on recovering the cellulose pulp as a raw material which meets the need of local paper manufacturers. For this reason, Materials In Works, one of the ISC3 Innovation Challenge 2022 Finalists, has been chosen as the ISC3 Start-up of the Month of November 2022.

Year of Foundation:


Addresses the following SDGs:

SDG 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure), SDG 12 (Responsible Production and Consumption), SDG 13 (Climate Action)

Profile pictures of a Malaysian female researcher and male technical director as founders of Materials in Works. In upper part of the picture is their logo with a title: "Think Circular, Less is more"
Founders of Materials in Works - Dr. Leh Cheu Peng (Technical Advisor) left and John Ooi (Co-Founder & Technical Director) right.
graphics of Materials in Works circular business model: Circular sign in the middle with the start-up logo. In the four corners icons for collecting waste, pick up, upcycling process and creating new materials.
Materials In Works's Business Model
Malaysian founder receiving a big award certificate for Start-up Accelerator program from to Accelerator representatives.
John at MyStartup Pre-Accelerator Programme in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (September 2022) where MIW has now reached the Top 5.

Vision for a more sustainable label packaging industry

The idea behind Materials In Works was initiated by the growing problem that there are tons of paper liner residues being generated by the label packaging industry as an unused by-product each day and that in Malaysia, the only disposal method is through landfills.
“In Malaysia, 2.97kt of paper waste is sent to landfills every day. This could fill Petronas Twin Towers, the Malayan landmark skyscrapers, in 45 days! This has resulted in more GHG emissions, pollution and scarcity of land to accommodate an ever-increasing demand for space for landfill construction,”
John Ooi, the co-founder and Technical Director of MIW states. This motivated him and Dr. Leh Cheu Peng (Technical Advisor and Professor at University Sains Malaysia) to come up with a tech-based solution that recovers cellulose from paper liner residues in order for this cellulose to be re-cycled and used as raw material to make paper products again. With his long-standing experience in the label packaging industry, he began a research collaboration with Dr. Leh at a renowned Malyasian public university. They conducted research on possible Green Chemistry solutions to recover cellulose from residual paper liner. Materials In Works succeed in the lab proof-of-concept and is now ready to scale up their technology with the aim to contribute to a more sustainable label packaging industry. The start-up team is growing as well, they have two new members qualified in diverse areas of business, marketing and operation.

Finding new value for unused by-products via industrial symbiosis

“Over ninety percent of paper liners is made up of the complex sugar cellulose and has close to zero percent of lignin content which make it a very valuable source of material for making premium paper products, such as tissue papers, specialty papers and food packaging. Not to mention that it took 50 years to grow the trees which were used as an industrial feedstock for these paper liners”
, John explains. Materials In Works' circular economy solution helps in diverting the valuable residues from ending up in landfill sites. This is mutually beneficial for the environment and the paper products manufacturers, as price and availability of pulp raw material are key concerns for industry players as they are mostly imported in Malaysia and subject to pulp price fluctuations. Materials In Works is able to reintroduce the residual paper liner into the value chain, via an IP-backed treatment process that turns it into a high-quality raw material for paper products manufacturers, effectively diverting the valuable residue from ending up in landfills. By reaching 70% of the Malaysian Market, Materials In Works would be able to save 54,600 trees from being cut down annually, which is equivalent to offsetting 10,920t of CO2 emissions per year. As such, with the proprietary circular solution, Materials In Works is able to reduce CO2 emissions by 79%, in comparison to conventional landfill disposal methods.
“The environment is important to humans and all other species. We are here to help future generations to be able to enjoy blue skies and green forests,”
John states. And so, they collaborate with industry partners and public universities in the INDUSTRIAL SYMBIOSIS Program – a collaboration among industry enterprises to collaborate and exchange their by-products in achieving higher resource efficiency, waste minimization and hence reducing negative impact towards the environment.

Next Steps at Materials In Works

The startup is working on scaling up their technology to a pilot scale, with a focus on label packaging stakeholders. They are also looking for collaboration opportunities with other paper products manufacturers such as tissues, food packaging, and specialty papers. MIW also works on further improving the paper liner treatment itself, e.g., by reclaiming the silicone used for the anti-adhesive coating on the paper liners. Materials In Works operates mainly in the ASEAN region with Malaysia as the beachhead market. Materials In Works’ initiative is supported by industry experts, machinery suppliers and renowned Malaysian public universities. With their innovative solution for residual paper liner reducing the landfill and Green House Gases problems, Materials In Works, who joined the ISC3 Global Start-up Service in October 2021, contributes to SDG 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure), SDG 12 (Responsible Production and Consumption), and SDG 13 (Climate Action).