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How a Toronto startup is building a future without plastic pollution

Success Stories

How a Toronto startup is building a future without plastic pollution

The mammoth-size problem of plastics causing pollution and climate change is well known. Whether it’s plastic islands in our oceans, microplastics found in humans or in the far reaches of the Antarctic, plastic is a major problem.

And yet, plastics are an integral part of the global economy and our everyday lives.

Genecis Bioindustries is a Toronto startup with a big vision – plastic without pollution.

The company was created by Luna Yu in 2017. “It saddened me to witness the immense amount of edible food discarded and lost in our current systems,” Yu says. “I saw this as a tremendous opportunity to find innovative ways to extract value from food waste and provide a sustainable alternative to its disposal.”

Last year, Genecis was named the winner of OCI’s annual Mind to Market Award, which celebrates the best OCI-supported research collaboration, between the business and research communities, resulting in effective commercialization of leading-edge ideas and solutions.

As part of Genecis’ highlight video for the OCI-coveted award, Yu said more than 3 trillion pounds of food is wasted every year, which releases 7 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“I firmly believe that by harnessing the power of biotechnology, we can redefine the very concept of plastics and pave the way for a sustainable future,” says Yu.

Genecis converts organic waste into PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoate), a biodegradable, compostable, and non-toxic polymer that can replace a wide variety of traditional plastics. Genecis is both diverting organic waste from landfills and creating plastic alternatives that are better for the environment.

“Genecis Bioindustries’ work is vital right now as it addresses urgent environmental challenges, reduces plastic pollution, tackles food waste, promotes sustainability and resource efficiency, drives the transition to a circular economy, and meets the rising demand for sustainable solutions.”

Yu envisions a future where people no longer need to sort their garbage because everything can go into the green bin and be transformed back into biodegradable plastics, like PHAs.

Through its creation of biodegradable plastics, Genecis has caught the attention of large industry players including American venture firm Khosla Ventures and Amazon. Both have invested in Genecis with Amazon having invested earlier this year through its Climate Pledge Fund.

Over the last year, Genecis has secured customers from across North America and Europe. It also has a pilot program in a London, Ontario biogas plant, and is gearing up to launch its own products this year using its bioplastics.

But getting to this place has not been easy. Genecis started out on a “shoestring” budget with an early prototype that used rice cookers. It wasn’t until Genecis connected with Sarnia, Ontario-based Lambton College through OCI’s business development team that it was able to scale its PHAs and secure its first customer contracts. Those customers now include Fortune 500 companies.

Over the last six years, OCI has been able to support Genecis on several projects. Most recently being its work with Lambton College, which was funded in part by OCI’s Collaborate 2 Commercialize (C2C) program that connects companies with academics to commercialize IP.

Watch this video to learn how Genecis and Lambton College’s partnership led to the company’s current success. And how this made-in-Ontario innovation could change the future of plastics as we know it.

YouTube video