Taking its name from the Sardinian word “lightness”, LEBIU is an innovative startup that develops cutting-edge materials by transforming cork waste from the local supply chain for high-quality stoppers, through an upcycling process that enhances the features of cork – which is usually incinerated – and returns a material that is flexible, resistant, and entirely free of hazardous chemicals.

Thanks to the large volume of recycled cork and GMO-free plant-based polymers sourced from non-agricultural settings, LEBIU has created the first locally-sourced cork-based materials with a controlled and fully Italian-made production chain.

Lebiu transforms waste into eco-textiles

LEBIU is currently part of the Terra Next accelerator and has received sustainable development funding from many national and international bodies, including the European Commission. In 2022, it was recognised as an innovative business by the European Innovation Council. LEBIU’s target market is the B2B sector, where it aims to supply eco-textiles generated from cork industry waste in Sardinia for the clothing, leather, furniture, packaging, and automotive sectors.

Lightness, water resistance, excellent thermo-acoustic insulation, and antistatic properties are some of the key features of cork. The material is extracted from the cork oak tree, which captures considerable quantities of carbon.  In the production process of cork stoppers, non-recyclable waste is generally incinerated to generate thermal energy.

Sustainable and customisable materials

With a focus on environmental sustainability, the rural economy, and cultural heritage, LEBIU founders Fabio Molinas and Alessandro Sestini create biomaterials using local production waste and plant-based binding agents in a solvent-free aqueous solution. Currently, the company has patented two materials: NANOCORK, a natural finish that can be applied to garments and textiles, and CORKSKIN, a multi-layer biomaterial that combines the technical properties of cork – which is its main component – with an aesthetic that is reminiscent of animal leather but can be customised with ad-hoc textures and finishes.