Italy’s ‘RecilaGaMe’ talks about turning plastic waste into silk, their innovative idea and their tiny larva business partners.
Can you imagine transforming a plastic bag into an elegant silk tie? Or into a silk-shirt? Though it seems strange or even impossible, this is the concept of RecilaGaMe, our innovative plastic waste disposal idea.
Our idea was born from the need to be able to improve the normal process for plastic disposal. Specifically, polyethylene, or the classic shopping bags, the simplest form of plastic polymer.
Today, Europe produces 60 million tons of plastic, 40% of which is polyethylene. Only 41% of this incredible mass is recycled. And the rest? Disposed of by thermo-valorizers, (burnt), or released into the environment. Our system aims to reduce costs, emissions and energy consumption, making it a possible alternative to landfill.
But how did we arrive at silk?
3 years ago, we read an interesting scientific article about the “degradation of polyethylene through Galleria Mellonella”, a particular larva that is able to ingest and digest thin sheets of plastic. Our first thought was not to understand how it could degrade the polymer, but instead, how to make it an efficient and functional system of disposal of plastic waste, so that it was self-supporting economically and could survive in a possible market.
After months and months of research and testing, we arrived to the conclusion that in addition to being an environmentally friendly and emission-free system, it was also a process capable of giving raw materials easily applicable in industry and the environment.
But what does this process actually consist of?
Easy: “the larva eats plastic and its produces silk“.
The larva’s digestive system has the property of degrading the plastic and transforming it into an organic compound, not dangerous for the environment. Our system is also based on the life cycle of the animal, which during its life cycle must create a cocoon made of silk, to complete its metamorphosis into moth. From this cocoon it is possible to extract silk, which can be used as a textile fiber. Easy!
But not only that… From the life cycle it is also possible to obtain organic products that can be used for the production of bio-gases and as supplements for animal feed.
Scaling up and becoming self-sufficient
In recent years we have been able to verify the efficiency of our idea, while also improving the breeding system of the Galleria Mellonella, creating a new modular prototype, to increase the number of larvae. This factor increases the amount of degraded plastic and also the meters of textile fiber, making RecilaGaMe a potential scalable system.
A few months ago, we met a new challenge: how to turn our idea into a self-sufficient activity?
And fortunately, RecilaGaMe was giving the opportunity to participate as semi-finalists and finalists in The European Social Innovation Competition 2019.
This important competition gave us the chance to gain new knowledge, fundamental skills to build and develop our start-up, thanks to the useful Academy process. We were able to compare ourselves with the other semi-finalists, and learn from experts of the sector.
Now we have reached the final part of this competition: we hope to have been able to demonstrate the validity of our idea and we are proud of the work done so far, and aim to put it into practice
Everything revolves around this tiny animal, also called the ‘Greater wax moth’, which is simply the same animal that is used as bait when fishing.