3D printing is often used in sustainability efforts, such as: These include making tires, prostheses and cars from recycled materials, treating water and avoiding food waste with 3D printed vegetables and other foods. The USDA has estimated that between 30% and 40% of the country’s total food supply is wasted and around 30% of edible fruits and vegetables are rejected for sale in South Africa for their appearance alone. Some companies are working to use food 100% zero waste, which could be tricky. But instead of completely stopping food waste, others want to use that edible waste to make something better – recycled materials for 3D printing.
Recycled 3D printing filaments have been made from all sorts of materials, from plastic and raw building materials to fishing nets and human waste, as crude as that sounds. A group of graduates from the University of Toronto, Scarborough, Canada started a startup called Genecis and came up with a way to recycle food waste and turn it into biodegradable plastics that can be used to make anything from 3D printing filament to packaging.
“Genecis uses biology to convert organic waste into higher quality materials. The first product line is PHA biopolymers (polyhydroxyalkanoates), which are used in combination with PLA to produce 3D printing filaments. It is also used to make high quality flexible packaging and containers. In addition, PHAs makes a harder and less brittle 3D printing filament. The end product is 100 percent biodegradable and can be mixed with a wide variety of colors, ”said Luna Yu, Founder and CEO of Genecis. “Currently, all PHAs are made from expensive food crops such as corn, sugar cane and rapeseed. Genecis has developed a novel technology to make PHAs from mixed food waste, dramatically reducing production costs. “
PHAs are produced by microorganisms that the startup modifies by adjusting the bacterial composition. Genecis has what Yu calls “special recipes for bacteria” at the core of its technology that allows materials to be quickly and automatically put together to later produce rarer chemicals, as well as materials that chemically create too much. Genecis claims that its “PHA Bacterial Cocktail” can produce PHA bioplastics at 40% less cost than current commercial productions.
“Over the past two years, Genecis has collected bacteria from around the world and isolated over 200 species that are not in any existing database. That way, we can start developing our own synthetic biology platform that will quickly generate new synthetic bacteria, ”said Yu. “These bacteria can be used to make better PHAs for 3D printing and reprogrammed to make higher quality materials used in the cosmetic, pharmaceutical and nanomaterial industries.”
According to the startup’s website, PHAs can be fully composted and formed into products like 3D printing filaments. It also degrades in landfills and in nature within a year and is one of the few types of bioplastics that, if somehow recycled, can be combined with gasoline plastics to make resin.
To date, Genecis has processed a total of 1,080 kg of food waste and is currently commercializing its first line of PHA products for bioplastic pellets. In addition, the Canadian startup is looking for new partners who can act as users of its manufactured polymers. This idea will surely give you something to think about the next time you throw away that perfectly good half-eaten salad.
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[Source: Digital Trends]