Green Dot Bioplastics is one of three finalists in Samsung’s Extreme Tech Challenge — a global competition aimed at discovering “new technologies and innovations to solve the world’s most extreme problems.”
The Emporia-based bioplastics company will be joining 30 regional finalists from around the world to participate in the XTC finals May 4, 2020, in Paris, where they will compete for up to $10 million in project funding.
“We have invented and been developing a new plastic that is biodegradable — both on land and in the sea — and we have developed a process to make that,” Green Dot Chief Executive Officer Mark Remmert said. “We were there to discuss this new material and its potential impact on plastic packaging in particular. More than half of the plastic in the world is used for packaging, and a lot of it is single-use, throwaway, one-time, disposable. A lot of that ends up in the ocean. We’ve all the seen the pictures of stuff floating in the ocean. It tends to be that packaging that washes out to sea.”
Products such as plastic straws, bags, wrappers and six-pack rings used for canned beverages are just some of the types of waste Green Dot is hoping to eliminate with its new product. The plastic, Remmert said, biodegrades within 30 days in film form — both on land and in water — and does not leave behind any microplastic remnants that pollute the environment or harm wildlife.
“The products that we’re talking about don’t disintegrate, so they don’t fall apart into little pieces,” Remmert said. “These materials may potentially fall apart — they biodegrade so fast — but they’re not going to accumulate in the ocean. If some marine life did eat them, they would pass through it like food. They’re essentially made of things like starch.”
Green Dot is no stranger to developing biodegradable materials. Founded in 2011 with support from the Kansas Bioscience Authority, the company is focused on making plastics more sustainable by reducing the amount of petroleum-based feedstocks — or unprocessed materials used in the manufacturing process — as well as maximizing the use of renewable and reclaimed materials to enhance the performance of biodegradable materials.
Previously, Green Dot introduced the market’s first elastomeric bioplastic, which is a strong yet soft, rubber-like, pliable biodegradable material that can be used for a variety of purposes. The company expanded with the purchase of the bioplastics division of MGP Ingredients, based out of Atchison. The purchase included a manufacturing facility in Onaga and a product development lab that was moved to Ottawa.
Remmert said Green Dot’s Terratek line — while biodegradable — does not address the need for changes to plastic packaging.
“Today we don’t do a whole lot in packaging, and the packaging that we do is not typically single-use, throwaway items,” Remmert said. “We’ve wanted for some time to really be much more focused on where the problem plastics are, and that’s clearly packaging. We’ve been working for a number of years to bring some real technology breakthrough to plastic and packaging.”
Remmert said the theme for the 2020 XTC Challenge is “Tech For Good,” drawing inspiration from the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which were adopted in 2015. Green Dot’s proposal hits several goals, including responsible production and consumption, climate change, life on land and life on water.
“That was one of the things the judges were looking at was, is this truly on a global scale?” Remmert said. “Does it truly affect humankind and not just a few people in the Bay area?”
Green Dot’s staff has a lot of work ahead of it over the next six months to refine their pitch and prepare for the finals. Remmert said there are plans to create new videos related to the company’s mission and the proposed product, increase Green Dot’s social media presence and continue being active in the plastics industry.
“Internally, we continue to scale up this manufacturing process for this new material,” he said. “We’re already on this second plant as we scale up to make this on a commercial basis.”
Remmert said Green Dot was proud to show what kind of impact a small startup from rural Kansas can have on the world.
“We’ve got good people here,” he said. “We’re completely rural Kansas. Emporia is the biggest city we operate in. It’s a great story, and we really enjoy being here in Emporia.”
For more information about Green Dot, visit www.greendotbioplastics.com.