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Full Cycle: Converting Waste into a Fully Compostable BioPlastic! (Updated: 10/14/2016)

We transform organic waste into PHA, a fully compostable and cost competitive biopolymer that is an alternative to petro-plastics.

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Full Cycle converts organic and cellulosic waste, including food, agricultural byproducts, and cardboard and waste paper into high-value, fully compostable bio-plastics called polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs). PHAs' harmlessly and naturally degrade in marine and terrestrial ecosystems offering an environmentally favorable alternative to traditional petro-based plastics. PHAs are adaptable and high-performance polymers with broad commercial application potential including commercial food-grade packaging and agriculture films. Full Cycle uses a patented biotechnological process to break down waste and build polymers using non-GMO wild type bacteria - mitigating costs, regulatory constraints and scalability challenges.

Because we use food waste to create fully compostable plastics we simultaneously solve two un-intented consequences of the Consumption Economy, namely organic and plastic waste pollution. Equally important, we offer regions a profitable solution for organic waste treatment and upcycling - unlocking the ability to install waste collection and processing infrastructure in those locales that are currently underserved including India, SE Asia and China.  

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

Full Cycle is rooted in its local community. Dane and Jeff Anderson, the co-founders of Full Cycle, have spent the last decade developing FCB's waste conversion technology in partnership with various stakeholders and partners. Research was conducted at California State - Fresno until late 2015 and continues at the USDA-ARS facility in Albany, CA. Full Cycle is currently seeking partners that produce food waste and/or use plastic materials in their value or supply chain.

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

Food waste is a global problem; considering this, Full Cycle seeks to leverage OpenIDEO's global community to identify additional food waste sources, product applications and opportunities to maximize environmental and social impact.

Tell us about your work experience:

The Full Cycle team draws from extensive entrepreneurial experience - multiple team members have guided and scaled a variety of start-ups to commercial success. Additionally, our team has expertise in packaging, plastics, molded fiber, waste and renewable markets, waste diversion and re-purposing technologies, finance, risk analysis, waste water engineering, chemical engineering, civil engineering, industrial automation and corporate CSR strategies.

This idea emerged from

  • A group brainstorm

How far along is your idea?

  • It’s launched and we’re working on gathering more feedback – it’s existed for over 6 months

How would you describe this idea to your grandmother?

Hi Gram - we have created a technology that turns food waste into an environmentally friendly plastic alternative called PHA. We use normal bacteria (no GMOs) to "eat" the food waste and turn it into a plastic-like material. Products made from PHA can be turned into new PHA products at the end of their life and won't pollute our oceans or land because they naturally break down in those ecosystems.

How is your idea unique to the space?

Full Cycle is the first company to use heterogeneous waste streams as a feedstock to create PHA. Our technology allows for precise biological control of the waste fermentation, the bacterial growth and the production of PHA into a consistent end product. Although our tech is driven by sophisticated sensing and custom built software algorithms we use nature as a guide - the bacteria used in our process is easy to source and naturally occurring so we don't rely on any GMOs.

Who needs to play a role in your idea in order to make it successful?

Since the problem of food and plastic waste are systemic issues, we’ll need a broad set of stakeholders from various organizations and industries to help solve it. More specifically, Full Cycle partners with those that create or manage large volumes of waste materials. These stakeholders include food and consumer product manufacturers, municipalities, paper mills and waste haulers. We also engage with plastic converters, product manufacturers and consumers to identify the best use of PHA.

How do you plan to measure the impact of your idea?

Each ton of raw organic material used as input is material that is diverted from lower uses, primarily landfilling and therefore has associated emissions savings. Each pound of petroleum plastic that is displaced saves three pounds of CO2 from entering the atmosphere. In the long term, Full Cycle would like to bring its system to those areas that currently do not have waste collection and processing infrastructures - reducing marine/terrestrial pollution and combating water/air toxicity .

What are your immediate next steps after the challenge?

The construction and operations of a demonstration facility, capable of producing approximately 50 pounds of PHA per day, is the next critical step in Full Cycle’s growth. The demonstration facility will provide proof of technology scalability, using real world feedstocks in real world conditions, and will produce enough PHA to negotiate offtake agreements. Pledges of operational support have been committed by a waste management company and an anaerobic digestion operator.

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Organic wastes should be regarded as a resource and several appropriate technologies exist for adequate treatment and resource recovery, also including composting and granulating for organic fertilizer:
http://organicfertilizermachine.com/eco-solutions/organic-fertilizer-granulator-for-waste-recycling.html

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