New funding will allow a California company to greatly expand production of bioplastic derived from organic waste with an eye toward proving commercial viability.
Full Cycle Bioplastics is receiving a $50,000 grant from the Closed Loop Foundation, a non-profit offshoot of the Closed Loop Fund that provides loans to help promote recycling around the country.
The grant gives Full Cycle Bioplastics, based in Richmond, Calif., resources to move beyond laboratory work creating the polymer polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA). The company's approach uses fermentation and then bacteria to create the bioplastic from the organic waste.
"The grant we that we received allows us to debottleneck a process in that PHA production that will allow us to increase our material output by almost one hundredfold. That allows us to generate enough material to do more substantial material testing, process development and product development with potential commercial partners," Full Cycle CEO Andrew Falcon said.
"It's going to take us from grams a day of production to pounds a day of production. Although those are still relatively small quantities, it enables a substantially greater focus on product and material development," he said.
This is critical to help find partners to then further expand the business to the next level of production, which would be hundreds of pounds per day.
Full Cycle uses what it calls a bioprocess to convert organic material, think food waste and agricultural waste — into a compostable and marine degradable bioplastic. The material, Falcon said, is a "highly functional bioplastic that can be used for a broad variety of applications."
"You can use it in its various forms in a broad range of traditional plastic converting processes and then end products," he said.
Full Cycle has been working at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Western Regional Research Center in Albany, Calif., for a couple of years. "One of the critical bottlenecks for us is transitioning from lab scale to commercial scale output," Falcon said.
"It's really transformative for us to help us transition from lab- and R&D-focused operations to having enough output available to really focus on the commercialization aspect of the business," he said.
"We really get excited by this technology because we think it provides a living example of a successful circular economy solution," Falcon said.
The grant to Full Cycle Bioplastics is one of eight given by the Closed Loop Foundation, which sought out "innovative, viable and replicable solutions to reduce food waste." The foundation received more than 150 proposals.
"This initiative identified innovators that are creating new models for reducing food waste," said Eileen Hyde of the Walmart Foundation, which provided financial support for the grant program, in a statement.