2019 Young Entrepreneurs Awards winner: Abdul Khogali

Initiative: Genecis Bioindustries Incorporated

Country of impact: Canada

Could reprogrammed bacteria be the answer to tackling food waste and plastic pollution?

According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, around 30% of all food produced is wasted. Worse still, the decomposition of this food contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions.

Meanwhile the Ellen MacArthur Foundation estimates that if we don’t take serious action, the amount of plastic in our oceans will outweigh the fish by 2050.

Could bacteria be the answer? The scientists at Genecis believe it’s got enormous potential.

The Canadian small business has come up with brilliant biotechnology that could transform the way we look at food waste and plastic packaging.

Bioplastics that biodegrade fast

Using a blend of synthetic biology and advanced engineering, Genecis teams developed a way to reprogramme bacteria.

They’ve come up with a process that uses bacteria to cleverly convert organic material – in this case food waste – into high-quality, environmentally friendly bioplastics.

In very simple terms it means scraps of food can be completely transformed into plant-based plastic containers for packaging all sorts of products.

“By utilising food waste, we increase diversion rates from landfill and prevent methane emissions, which are 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide,” says Genecis Chief Operating Officer Abdul Khogali.

“The polymer we produce is created in a cost-effective way, competitively priced compared with other bioplastics. It can also be recycled or composted, and it naturally biodegrades into non-toxic components in both terrestrial and aquatic environments in very short timeframes.”

In landfill it takes a year for Genecis-made bioplastic to degrade. In the ocean, it’s gone in eight months. And in an industrial compost facility, the bioplastic is gone in as little as eight weeks.

So far Genecis has processed more than 10,000 kg of food waste. It’s got ambitions to go global – and it’s already growing fast.