Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

Making Bioplastic From Waste Methane Wins Entrepreneurial Prize

p>The $630,000 first prize (€500,000) in the 2012 edition of the Dutch Postcode Lottery Green Challenge has been won by Molly Morse of Mango Materials (Palo Alto, CA) for the startup company’s business plan, which is

based on a process for converting waste methane gas into a bioplastic material.

The award was presented in New York on September 23, 2012 in conjunction with a meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative. The Netherlands-based Postcode Lottery says the idea for the Green Challenge was a direct result of a presentation by former U.S. President Bill Clinton to the Lottery’s World Meeting in December 2006. The first Challenge took place in 2007.

The idea that led to forming Mango Materials in 2010 was conceived by Morse and company co-founder Allison Pieja based on their doctoral research at Stanford University on production and uses of environmentally friendly materials. A third co-founder, Anne Schauer-Gimenez, brings expertise in environmental engineering and microbiology. Morse described the genesis of the company in an article on the Huffington Post.

Mango Materials Process Graphic

Mango Materials conceived its process as a potential closed loop, methane to bioplastic to methane.

Built on research patented by Stanford, Mango’s process starts with waste biogas (methane) from landfills, agricultural facilities and wastewater treatment plants. It then uses bacteria to convert the gas into a bioplastic, specifically polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA). PHA is not a new discovery. It is currently commercialized by several manufacturers and used in a variety of applications.

For example, Newlight Technologies (Irvine, CA)  produces a range of PHA-based materials that it terms performance-competitive with oil-based plastics using a process that converts greenhouse gas such as methane and carbon dioxide into bioplastics.  The company earlier this month announced it had added 100,000 pounds of annual production capacity on its advanced-generation gas-to-plastic production line.

Although most discussions of greenhouse gas focus on carbon dioxide (CO2) released into the atmosphere, methane (CH4) is said to have a global warming potential as much as 72 times greater than CO2 over 20 years. Mango Materials’ concept not only turns waste methane gas into bioplastic, but that bioplastic also will degrade in a landfill or digester, releasing methane gas that can be used to make more bioplastic—in effect a closed loop. The company notes that its PHA material also is affordable.

The Postcode Lottery Green Challenge looks for “The Best CO2 Reducing Business Plan” that combines sustainability, entrepreneurship and creativity. The 2012 contest drew over 500 entries from 38 countries. Contest rules are that the business plan’s products or services should: reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by an amount that can be roughly estimated; be developed enough to execute; be realizable as usable within the next two years.

Entries for the seventh edition of the Green Challenge competition will be open from May – July of 2013. For details, click here.


2 Responses to “Making Bioplastic From Waste Methane Wins Entrepreneurial Prize”

  1. Great work by Molly Morse of Mango Materials.. they deserve the award. This innovation could help the packaging industry provide a more sustainable and eco-friendly packaging solutions.

  2. Sustainability at its best! Methane to bioplastic, bioplastic to methane..excellent!