Plastic pollution is not a simple solution and Miranda Wang and Jeanny Yao have not let it stop them.
Wang and Yao are pioneers in a new way in which plastic can be diverted from a landfill or end up contributing to a piece of trash in the ocean.
Their team at BioCellection has developed a way to convert non-recyclable plastics like polyethylene back into other chemicals.
These chemicals are for things like auto parts, electronics and textiles, Yao said in an interview with People Magazine.
The couple met in the Eighth Recycling Group and at the age of 18 got passionate about reducing waste and started thinking about what else could be done with it.
There the women learned that the bacteria could break the plastic. In an interview with Rolex.org, Wang said this was just the beginning:
“If cells can find biological ways to change the structure of these carbons then there are probably chemical ways to do that, but much faster and with much greater efficiency,” Wang said.
With this idea BioCellection was born.
Where the Company is today
Their workshop uses flexible polyethylene plastics, especially low density polyethylene (LDPE) and high density polyethylene (HDPE), which usually take the form of grocery, bubble wrap, food wrap and packaging bags.
They sort it, destroy it and then run a chemical process on the plastic that reduces it to a useful product that can be sold.
They are opening a processing plant capable of recycling 45,500 tonnes of plastic material that could not be used by 2023. This amount of energy would reduce CO2 emissions by 320,000 if the plastic had gone anywhere else.
BioCellection is currently working with other companies to try to make this technology available in strategic locations around the world to tackle pollution on a larger scale than a California company would be able to.
How does it work
Scientists at the BioCellection lab produce and produce various types of acids with these plastics used for things like solvents and coatings.
These acids, called chemical intermediates, are the first of the plastic waste, and these intermediates are usually made from petroleum.
In this way, the founders’ solution could not only help solve plastic pollution, but would also provide a valuable product that is not made from fossil fuels and can be sold.
Awards and headphones
Rolex nominated Wang for BioCellection at the Rolex Business Awards.
Elle Magazine also named Wang and Yao and one of the “27 women who lead the charge to protect our environment.” In the same article, the magazine also named women such as Greta Thunberg, Shailene Woodley, Dr. Sylvia Earle and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Solutions to new problems
BioCellection is coming at an opportune time. Not only are the oceans burdened with plastic, but about a year ago China announced that it would no longer accept plastic from the United States, Australia or other countries.
According to an NPR article, US they used to export about 700,000 tonnes of plastic a year.
In Europe, 95% of their plastic was recycled in China before the ban.
This plastic could be recycled in China. However, places like Indonesia and other plastic waste destinations do not have the same recycling potential.
However, China accounted for about 25% of “mismanaged waste” and if a better solution was found than the Chinese companies provided, plastic pollution could be reduced, according to Yale’s article.
With a plant that processes 50,155 tonnes of waste, several strategically located plants using BioCellection technology could dramatically reduce the amount of unused plastic.
In her interview with Rolex Wang said she thought there was hope and a solution.
“People have an incredible ability to innovate, to survive in times that matter,” he said, “Now is one of those times.”