HOW IT WORKS

The Globe and Mail Metro (Ontario Edition) - - SCIENCE AT WORK - AMY O’KRUK

Genecis trans­forms food waste into bio­plas­tic us­ing two dif­fer­ent “recipes” of bac­te­ria col­lected from around the world.

First, Genecis pre-treats the food waste with heat and acid and runs it through a me­chan­i­cal grinder to break it down. Next, it’s moved to large vats called biore­ac­tors where thou­sands of bac­te­ria species work to­gether to turn kitchen scraps and other mixed or­ganic waste into small car­bon build­ing blocks.

Dur­ing a sec­ond phase, the car­bon is fed to PHA-pro­duc­ing bac­te­ria, which eat it and store re­serves of bio­plas­tic gran­ules within their cells. The bac­te­ria store PHA like fat to use later as a nat­u­ral en­ergy re­serve, but once the bac­te­ria is full of bio­plas­tic, Genecis har­vests the gran­ules by freeze-dry­ing the bac­te­ria in large batches. This breaks the cells open, al­low­ing the com­pany to ex­tract the gran­ules and man­u­fac­ture them into bio­plas­tic pel­lets. Plas­tic man­u­fac­tur­ers can pur­chase the pel­lets to make ev­ery­thing from biodegrad­able bags and pack­ag­ing to durable prod­ucts, such as dash­board com­po­nents in a car.

Right now, Genecis’s con­ver­sion rate is 2 per cent – roughly 45 tonnes of food waste pro­duces one tonne of PHA plas­tic. While Genecis is fo­cused on PHAs, in 2019 the com­pany will ex­plore us­ing syn­thetic bi­ol­ogy to cre­ate new bac­te­ria and pro­duce other high-value ma­te­ri­als be­yond bio­plas­tic.

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