A North American young "Earth champion", Miranda Wang is co-founder and CEO of BioCellection. Her start-up turns plastic waste into gold, or more precisely into high-value chemicals.
"Our innovation unlocks the potential of using plastic waste as a resource to replace fossil fuels in sustainable production chains."Only 9% of all the plastic waste produced since the early 1950s has been recycled. So what about the remaining 91%? It’s been sent to landfills, incinerated or left in the environment. Two numbers that give us an idea about the scale of problem of plastic pollution.
To help solve the problem, two young Canadian entrepreneurs Miranda Wang and Jeanny Yao founded BioCellection. So what do they do? They are developing innovative solutions for plastics that are not currently or are rarely recycled due to their lack of uniformity or the degree of contamination.
Their start-up has developed a recycling process to transform plastics (in particular polyethylene) into high market value virgin-quality chemicals that can be used as building blocks in the manufacture of new products.
The BioCellection technology is a chemical recycling process. A chemical reaction breaks the chemical bonds between the molecules to reduce them into simple molecules.
The resulting organic acids (succinic acid, glutaric acid and adipic acid, among others) are intermediate chemicals that are used in many high-performance materials for cars, electronics and clothing. Adipic acid, for example, is used in the manufacture of nylon.
Until now these intermediate chemicals were produced using petroleum. Thanks to BioCellection, they are for the first time being made from plastic waste. The start-up treats 1 to 2 kg of plastic film every three hours. 90% of the plastic waste is converted into biodegradable chemicals. And to do it, the start-up uses no more energy than a TV screen.
Industrial production"Our innovation unlocks the potential of using plastic waste as a resource to replace fossil fuels in sustainable production chains," says BioCellection on its website.
In fact, faced with the billions of tons of plastic waste that is accumulating - in particular plastic waste that is difficult to recycle using traditional methods - many experts believe that alongside mechanical recycling chemical recycling processes are the way forward.
These new technologies are one more way of meeting the challenges of the circular economy, reducing plastic pollution and our dependence on fossil fuels. However, they are more expensive and struggle to get through to the industrial production stage.
Conscious of these obstacles, Miranda Wang and Jeanny Yao are currently working with the GreenWaste Recovery Recycling Company and the City of San Jose, California on a pilot project to develop the technology so that it can be easily integrated on an industrial scale into existing waste management systems.
CREDITS: Main picture © Noémie Rosset / Veolia