This Startup Turns Food Waste into Bioplastic that can breakdown in your Backyard
A Start-up called Full Cycle Bioplastics makes PHA, a building block for plastics that can fully break down in your backyard compost bin or even in the ocean, from Food waste or any other organic waste.
Plastic pollution has become one of the most constraining environmental issues, as the rapidly increasing production of disposable plastic products overwhelms the world’s ability to deal with them.
But the fact that the uses of plastics make our daily life easy makes it almost impossible to avoid them.
On the other side, the world has another problem, Food waste.
When food waste ends up in landfills, it decomposes anaerobically and releases methane, a greenhouse gas that is 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 100-year scale and 84 times more on a 20-year scale. Worldwide, 8.2% of greenhouse gas emissions result from food waste alone.
These issues are threats to our environment and cause many problems including climate change.
But, Good News!
What this start-up called Full Cycle Bioplastics doing is addressing these global issues— plastic pollution, food waste, and climate change— by transforming organic waste into, a high-performing, compostable, biodegradable plastics alternative to oil-based plastics.
Dane Anderson, co-founder, and co-CEO of Full Cycle Bioplastics says,
“We’re using one huge problem—the carbon emissions from food waste—to solve another, which is the global plastics problem, and petroleum plastics as a whole,”
How is it different from regular Plastics?
The company is working on PHA, or polyhydroxyalkanoate, a biopolymer that’s made by bacteria.
It can break down easily no industrial compost facility is required because the material is naturally occurring. No industrial compost facility required
“The bacteria that can produce it also have the enzymes to break it down,” Anderson says.
That’s opposite to a common “compostable” plastic that’s chemically synthesized and breaks down only in industrial compost facilities; it can’t break down in a backyard composter or nature.
What if it reaches the ocean?
If PHA ends up in the ocean, it can break down in some conditions. If it’s near the surface in warm water, it can biodegrade in as quickly as seven weeks.
If it sinks to the bottom, it may take years to break down.
But unlike typical plastic, PHA isn’t likely to do any harm.
It’s not toxic, and if a turtle or other animal eats it, bacteria in the animal’s stomach will consume it.
“I’ve actually eaten some of our PHA,” Anderson says. “It’s a carbon source, just like any carbohydrate.”
With PHA, the company can make different types of bioplastics that can be used for anything from packaging to clothing.
The company breaks down organic waste into volatile fatty acids that it feeds to the natural bacteria, using a patented process to build up the PHA, harvest it, and then process it into resins that can be used to make polyethylene, polypropylene, and polystyrene—plastics commonly used to make products like shopping bags, bottle caps, and Styrofoam, respectively.
Because food waste is a low-cost feedstock, this plastic can be competitive with fossil-based plastics, the company says.
And because food waste in a landfill emits methane, a potent greenhouse gas, the process can help eliminate those emissions and shrink the carbon footprint of the final product.
The company is now preparing to build its first commercial-scale facilities, beginning with one based in New Zealand.
Even if this product is not likely going to solve the entire threat of plastic and food waste in the whole world, it is a great step and will make a huge difference.