In Ontario, an estimated 2.3 million tonnes of food and organic waste was sent to disposal in 2015. Luna Yu believes that rather than going to landfills and releasing huge amounts of greenhouse gases, organic waste can be a resource.
“It’s all about creating a circular economy,” says the CEO of Genecis Bioindustries Inc., a Toronto company that’s harnessing the principles of biology to turn food waste into polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) – a class of bioplastics produced by micro-organisms.
“Our technology can get rid of food waste by turning it into sustainable bioplastic products,” says Ms. Yu, who describes this as a two-stage process that involves two groups of bacteria. The first breaks the organic waste down into small carbons. The second group eats the carbon and makes PHAs out of their own cells.
PHAs have been around for years, says Ms. Yu. But because they’re made largely with sugars derived from sugar cane or corn, they’re expensive to produce and typically command prices that are about four times that of regular plastics.
It’s all about creating a circular economy. Our technology can get rid of food waste by turning it into sustainable bioplastic products.— Luna Yu, CEO of Genecis Bioindustries Inc.
By using food waste as a carbon source, Genecis has reduced the cost of making PHAs by as much as 40 per cent, says Ms. Yu. And unlike other bioplastics, the PHAs produced at Genecis can go into any existing waste stream. “If you put them in organic waste composting facilities, they will break down in a matter of weeks, and if they end up in landfill, they will biodegrade in a couple of months,” she explains. “In recycling facilities, our PHAs can be reblended and combined with petroleum plastics – something you can’t do with a lot of other bioplastics.”
Genecis is working with a range of corporate partners to divert food waste and create circular business solutions.
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