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Published on : Jul 05, 2019

We live in an age, which after long, may be called as the ‘Plastic Age’. The amount of plastic we use today and the fact that it endures for centuries, it is bound to create problems for us and the environment. And interestingly, it is! Following this line of thought, plastics are everywhere, even in our clothes, from fleece jackets to polyester leisure suits.

In simple terms, a polymer is a molecule comprising of a long chain of identical units. These polymers are often elastic and durable. Plastic is a polymer type derived from petroleum products. However, biopolymers such as silk from silkworms or cellulose from wood are commonly found in nature. Unlike plastic, these biopolymers can be chemically broken down to natural materials.

A startup from Silicon Valley is now trying to clean the environment by getting the plastic out of clothing and putting it in biopolymers.

Putting Methane to a New Use

Mango Materials is working towards manufacturing biopolymers that will help in replacing some types of plastics. Molly Morse, the founder of the company believes that her company is not the typical Silicon Valley startup. In addition, they are using waste-water treatment plant to manufacture polymers. Molly is a Stanford University graduate in environmental engineering. In 2006, she met Anne Schauer-Gimenez at a science conference and there had the idea of starting a company.

Mango Materials use bacteria to manufacture biopolymers. They use a certain type of bacteria that feeds on methane. Following this, the bacteria use the methane to create their own biopolymers. Mango Materials have a field site at a waste-water treatment plant in Silicon Valley. Moreover, there they use the methane gas emitted by the waste-water management and feed it to the bacteria.

Methane and oxygen along with an additive are continuously fed to the bacteria by the company. When the bacteria are sufficiently fat, the team then breaks them open to harvest the biopolymer. Later on, the biopolymer experiences drying processes, thus turning into pellets.