23 Jan 2019 Story Oceans & seas

Breaking down plastic waste: on a winning streak

Since Miranda Wang won the Young Champions of the Earth Prize for North America in September, things have been busy.  

BioCellection won the Young Champions of the Earth prize for finding a way to breaks down plastic, reducing the amount that ends up in landfills. Their process breaks the chemical bonds between molecules, turning plastic into chemicals worth thousands of dollars per ton.

Wang and her co-founder Jeanny Yao were listed on Forbes 30 under 30 winners for their efforts to ramp up the amount of plastic recycled—currently only at 10 per cent. Their team have also scooped another environmental award—this one for emerging talent.

The Institute of the Environment and Sustainability—part of the University of California, Los Angeles—awarded BioCellection with the US$100,000 2018 Pritzker Emerging Environmental Genius Award, from the Anthony and Jeanne Pritzker Family Foundation. 

“I want to thank Tony and Jeanne Pritzker and University of California, Los Angeles, for considering us for this prestigious award, which could help us surpass our last technical hurdle before moving across the finish line,” Wang said.   

In 2019, BioCellection moves into a new lab in Menlo Park, equipped with technology to double the team’s experimental capacity. They welcome a new Chief Technology Officer—Dr. Erik Freer, a chemical engineer with 15 years of industry experience—as well as a lab technician and administrator.

The team also received a stamp of approval for a new waste plant pilot with GreenWaste Recovery, Inc. and the City of San José to advance the last phase of their research pilot, receiving pilot revenue of US$120,000.

“With our pilot partners, we've been invited to present our invention and pilot case study at the 2019 Solid Waste Association of North America symposium,” said Wang.

In other exciting news, Google is partnering with BioCellection to recycle all the campus construction site plastic film and help them reach zero waste. They are also working with Covestro to test chemical products made by recycling plastic bags, with exciting potential. 

“It's really powerful to see that over a span of very short time, so much can change in the startup. I believe that if we keep the team strong, anything is possible. We're going to prove that the impossible is possible,” said Wang.

Want to make a difference? We encourage everyone who wants to make a difference for our planet to apply to be a Young Champion of the Earth. Stay tunedapplications open soon. The Young Champions of the Earth Prize is powered by Covestro.