VEnvirotec Biotechnology‘s Patricia Ayma, co-founder and CTO, talks to NESTA about their inspiration and process and the experience of having participated in The European Social Innovation Award.

How were you inspired to challenge plastic waste?

‘I got inspired to challenge plastic waste while studying the Environmental Engineering Master. At first, I discovered plastic pollution at a local scale focused on landfills and plastic plugging up water-waste systems. But then I realized through media and literature investigations on the large amount of plastic pollution present in the ocean and the awful impact it has to wildlife everywhere. It was disgusting.’

Tell us the story of your project? How did you settle on this solution?

‘When developing my Master Thesis, I focused my investigations on a very special bacteria, capable of producing a biopolymer called with a bad-large name “Polyhydroxyalkanoates” (right now, PHA). PHA bioplastic is an energy reserve for bacteria with the same characteristics as petrol-based plastic, so it can be used for packaging, biomedicine or 3D printing.

During the study I developed these bacteria in an amazing way, because I feed them with… organic wastes! As every existing creature in the world bacteria need to eat something to grow but, unlike us, they love organic wastes. Studying these bacteria, I realised that the process for PHA bioplastic production was a simple and robust process and that it only needed a good business model.’

What have you enjoyed most about your experience with the European Social Innovation Competition and how will you apply that learning to your project moving forward?

‘The European Social Innovation Competition’ has brought us the opportunity of learning more about impact measurement, social impact, business development and project communication.

We have enjoyed the Academy in Turin, meeting the different semi-finalists, sharing learning sessions with the experts and improving our project. It was really fun to be there and also enjoy a very beautiful city, I haden’t had the change of discover previously.

All the learning acquired during the contest will be applied in VEnvirotech, because it is really important to have an impact-based company promoting benefits in three important aspects: people, planet and profit.’