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Goodbye, soggy paper straws and hello, true biodegradable plastic!

MetaCycler Bioinnovations is creating plastic-like materials out of organic waste from dairy production

August 24, 2023

MetaCycler BioInnovations, a new company at Velocity, the University of Waterloo’s startup incubator, is making biodegradable materials out of waste from the dairy industry, with the potential for wide-range applications, including biodegradable plastic-like straws. 

“One of the most common questions we get is ‘Can I get my straw back?’” said Nicole LeBlanc, co-founder and CEO. “Our material has flexible properties that can be used in a wide range of applications, including hard, brittle plastic-like materials that could, in theory, replace plastic straws. The straws would have the same feel and texture as plastic, but would be biodegradable in all environments, including marine environments.” 

MetaCycler’s range of genetically modified microorganisms converts dairy waste, byproducts from milk and cheese production, into PHA, a plastic-like material produced naturally by microorganisms, which is the basis of many of the biodegradable plastic products used today.

“The microorganisms are harmless to humans, animals and plants and produce PHA naturally,” co-founder Aranksha Thakor said. “We have made changes to what the bacteria eats so that it can consume dairy waste and make PHA. This idea can be applied to any organic waste. Changing the genes of bacteria means we can use them to produce plastic-like material from other food processing plants as well as the organic waste we throw out at home.”

An image showing MetaCycler BioInnovations founders (L-R) Jonathan Parks, Eugenia Dadzie, Nicole LeBlanc, Shirley Wong, Aranksha Thakor. They are standing in front of Velocity branded banner.

“We are developing technology that is producing a material that could, in theory, change the world but first has to become a feasible business, which is what Velocity is helping us figure out.”

Nicole LeBlanc, CEO and Co-founder of MetaCycler BioInnovations
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