The Ultimate in “Clean” Tech: Sludge?

startup friday

process-sludgePop quiz:  what does our municipal sewage waste that gets processed at wastewater treatment plants, and the great Pacific garbage patch, have in common?

Well, not much…yet.

A clean tech startup by the name of Micromidas may change all that, and in the process, change the game for plastic packaging.

Micromidas won the EPA’s 3P (People, Prosperity, Planet) clean tech contest earlier this year and is competing at this year’s Clean Tech Open in San Francisco.  The bottom line is that it says it can convert 80-90 percent of sludge (biomass waste) to bioplastics.  Typically, this sludge is either burned or allowed to decompose naturally, a process that takes 30 days or more.  Either way, it contributes to climate change by producing greenhouse gasses.  Instead of letting that happen, Micromidas turns that sludge into solid products that can be used in much the same way as conventional plastics.

Each pound of bioplastic it produces offsets two pounds of CO2 by avoiding the offgassing that usually occurrs as a result of degradation of sludge at wastewater treatment plants.  Perhaps more importantly, the product the company is focusing on creating also offsets one pound of petrochemically derived plastic, which of course has contributed to the Goliath garbage patch in the Pacific.

Micromidas’ proprietary processes will allow wastewater treatment plants to reduce the amount of time required to process sewage sludge, as well, something potential partners will find attractive.

The bioplastics will be used mostly for single-use products, such as plastic wrap packaging that has little alternative but to be thrown in the trash.

The name?  Micro–meaning small things, and Midas–turning bad stuff to good.  It’s got a nice ring to it for a company that has the potential to really change the game.

Scott Cooney is the author of Build a Green Small Business:  Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill)

Twitter.com/scottcooney

Scott Cooney, Principal of GreenBusinessOwner.com and author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill, November 2008), is also a serial ecopreneur who has started and grown several green businesses and consulted several other green startups. He co-founded the ReDirect Guide, a green business directory, in Salt Lake City, UT. He greened his home in Salt Lake City, including xeriscaping, an organic orchard, extra natural fiber insulation, a 1.8kW solar PV array, on-demand hot water, energy star appliances, and natural paints. He is a vegetarian, an avid cyclist, ultimate frisbee player, and surfer, and currently lives in the sunny Mission district of San Francisco. Scott is working on his second book, a look at microeconomics in the green sector.In June 2010, Scott launched GreenBusinessOwner.com, a sustainability consulting firm dedicated to providing solutions to common business problems by leveraging the power of the triple bottom line. Focused exclusively on small business, GBO's mission is to facilitate the creation and success of small, green businesses.