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Students’ solvent aims to cut landfill volume

By: Frank Antosiewicz

May 23, 2013

BOULDER,COLO. -- A patent-pending process designed to help plastic waste decompose within three years in landfills is the idea fueling Inviroment LLC, a group led by students from Brigham Young University.

The firm plans to use a trademarked product called PlasTek to treat plastic waste and has been entering various business-plan contests. They earned $100,000 in a regional contest of the Department of Energy’s National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition held in April at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Inviroment will join other regional winners June 11-12 in the national competition in Washington.

PlasTek, according to the company’s website, is a chemical solvent made from naturally occurring compounds.

“PlasTek is sprayed onto trash as it is deposited in landfills. PlasTek catalyzes a reaction that causes the breakdown of waste plastics in a matter of months, vs. hundreds of years for untreated plastics,” the site says.

The result can cut trash volume in landfills by 13-20 percent annually, according to Inviroment, and the resulting methane can be sold as renewable energy.

The company, according to President Nathan Parkin, was formed in January and has five partners — Parkin and Brock Bennion, both seniors at BYU; Devan Bennion, a BYU sophomore; and Nate Alder and Stephen Boyd.

Parkin said the idea came about after he and his roommate Brock Bennion returned from living in Sweden.

“We saw Sweden was extremely clean and very recycling-friendly. We came back to the U.S. and it was starkly different. We started talking about ways to change that,” said Parkin.

As impressed as they were with the way the Swedes used all sorts of bins in apartments to recycle, they thought there had to an easier way, Parkin said. That’s how they came up with the idea of an eco-friendly treatment that could be applied to plastics at the landfill. He said did not want to disclose its makeup while its patent is pending.

The company name was picked to take advantage of search engines — the word “environment” brings up plenty of results, but they felt the different spelling would provide a more unique search.

Inviroment is still in the concept phase, but the partners are building a website and participating in various contests to meet with possible investors.

More R&D and is still ahead, but they are planning a pilot test at a landfill probably in the fall and hope to have the product ready by middle of 2014.