A Canadian startup called Genecis, formed by a group of graduates from the University of Toronto Scarborough, is upcycling food waste into biodegradable plastics, which can then be used in everything from 3D printing filament to packaging.
Currently, PHA is made from food crops such as corn, sugar cane and canola — which are expensive and should be reserved for, well, food. Genecis’ “PHA bacteria cocktail” joins the ranks of products such as Wound Up — a wire filament made from a composite of recycled coffee grounds — by utilizing food waste, which the company says can reduce current commercial bioplastic production costs by 40 percent.
Genecis says its PHA is 100 percent compostable, and biodegradable in nature and landfills within a year. In the recycling stream, it is one of the only types of bioplastics that can be recombined with conventional plastics into recycled resin.
So far, Genecis says it has processed a total of 1,080 kg of food waste, and is working to commercialize its first PHA bioplastic pellet product line. The startup is also looking for new partners for its manufactured polymers.
Enough with the plastic waste, already!
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Meanwhile, a Scottish brewery is bolstering the country’s growing reputation as a center for circular innovation. Similar to its British neighbor to the South, Toast Ale, Bute Brew Co’s “Thorough Bread” amber ale is made using, you guessed it, leftover bread.
The 5.1 percent alcohol craft beer is made from unsold loaves of bread donated from the local Co-operative store. Backed by the Scottish Government and European funding, Zero Waste Scotland provided the seed funding for the consultancy to work with the brewers to research and develop the process. The leftover bread replaces some of the malt that would normally be used in the brewing process.
“Our customers absolutely love this beer, and they love it when they find out how it is made, too,” said Bute Brew owner Aidan Canavan. “Zero Waste Scotland were really supportive of our idea and the initial funding they provided helped make this possible. Thorough Bread has proven really popular and I’m proud that it’s a real community effort, with the bread coming from local stores.”
Thorough Bread has already received industry praise, having been shortlisted in the Innovation of the Year category of the Scottish Beer Awards and Best Eco Friendly category at the Scotsman Food & Drink Awards, both of which took place in September.
“Bute Brew Co. are a perfect example of the way circular economy principles are being put into practice in Scotland,” said Iain Gulland, Chief Executive of Zero Waste Scotland, which published a case study on Bute Brew Co. “By turning leftovers into an opportunity, they have created a fantastic business opportunity while tackling waste at the same time. I hope their success will be an inspiration for other businesses to come up with their own circular economy business ideas.”
From 30 October to 1 November, Scotland will play host to the Circular Economy Hotspot, a major international event to showcase the nation's progressive approach to developing a circular economy and the best of its burgeoning circular businesses to a global audience.