UBC entrepreneurs join fight against plastic pollution

Research Excellence | Strategy 9: Knowledge Exchange
Theme: Innovation
Jordan MacKenzie (left) and Rami Younes (right) showing a sheet of Bioform’s bioplastic | Photo credit: Michael Buchen

The end of plastic pollution—in the oceans, on land and in our air—could be within reach with two UBC ventures working hard on solutions that could make this vision a reality.

“Tonnes of plastic waste pollute our land and oceans,” says Dr. Jordan MacKenzie, co-founder and CEO of Bioform Technologies, a UBC start-up that is working on bringing a completely compostable bioplastic to the market. “We use the world’s most regenerative materials to create products that sustainably eliminate plastic waste without the green premium.”

Dr. MacKenzie holds a PhD in fluid mechanics and developed the technology during his time as research associate at the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering with professor Dr. Mark Martinez, co-founder of Bioform.

Bioform turns kelp and wood fibre—both materials plentiful in BC—into thin but durable bioplastic films that can be directly used for applications like agricultural mulch film, used to regulate soil moisture and protect crops, or rigid packaging products such as beverage lids and takeout containers.

Bioform’s bioplastic decomposes quickly under normal household conditions | Photo credit: Kai Jacobson/UBC Applied Science

Where Bioform looks to eliminate non-recyclable plastics, another UBC venture, A2O Advanced Materials Inc., offers a different approach to promoting sustainability through a new class of materials that make products that work longer and more efficiently.

The A2O team is testing a class of novel polymers that when added to other products like marine paints and industrial coatings can make them self-healing and weather-resistant, increasing their lifespan.

“You could almost call these materials alive. They have the ability to respond to stimuli and are self-healing,” says A2O co-founder Dr. Damon Gilmour, a UBC postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Chemistry.

A2O co-founder Dr. Damon Gilmour shows a novel polymer that can make products like marine paints and industrial coatings self-healing and weather-resistant | Photo credit: Paul Joseph/UBC Applied Science

Both Bioform and A2O received support from entrepreneurship@UBC, which brings entrepreneurial thinking and leadership skills to help promising UBC start-ups unlock their potential.

“Since its inception in 2013, entrepreneurship@UBC has mobilized UBC innovation, helping to translate the university’s leading-edge research into tangible impact through the creation of ventures,” says Dr. Sean Lumb, interim managing director with e@UBC. “It’s exciting to see transformative ventures such as A2O and Bioform now bringing their solutions to market and solving some of the world’s most pressing issues.”

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