As part of the entrepreneurship track, we have started the process of registering a patent. We are currently waiting to fill the provisional requirements of our LC Cutinas sequence, until after the iGEM competition so we can publish all of our results, and focus on promoting the science aspects of our project, thus promoting science. In the coming months we plan to acquire the necessary data and continue the process, with the understanding that our results so far cannot be used as part of the patent. In addition, we plan to assess the compatibility of other parts of the process as patents.
One of our major business collaborations includes cooperation with a group of students in the Master’s program at the Fox School of Business from Temple university in Philadelphia, who conducted a market research for us and recommended a target market and methods of action. Based on this data we have built a preliminary business plan. (see below)
Moreover, throughout the year we have pitched our project to the following companies in Israel – Coca-Cola, Neot Hovav Eco-Industrial council, Be’er Sheva Municipality, Carasso Science Park, Adama Makhteshim and Aviv Plastic. Remarkably, three of which donated funds and supported our project. We have also participated in a fundraiser event in our university, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU). This event aims to thanks the donors of the university and to raise funds for the most important projects. At this event, we have pitched our project to donors too.
BGU and its Bengis Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation at the Guilford Glazer Faculty of Business and Management have invested funds and resources in our project with the belief that our product will become commercial and improve existing plastic treatment methods.
We have performed positive marketing and have instilled the PlastiCure name in the Israeli public consciousness. Five articles have been published about our work in local and national media. We also hosted a lecture by Israeli parliament member Yael Cohen Paran regarding environmental issues in Israel, and have formed relations with our university’s commercialization company that will serve us in the future.
In conclusion, we have created a partnership with people from the industry and research and have established infrastructure and work environments that will serve our project in the near future to develop a product, that will be an alternative to the current treatment of plastic waste.
we plan to keep promoting the above areas immediately after the iGEM competition, with the understanding that we can not register the results that we have published here as part of a patent. This in order to allow different groups in the coming years to advance the science in this area.
- Executive Summary
- Company Description
- Market Analysis
- Go To Market Strategy and Business Model
- Financial Projections Draft
- Organizational Structure
1. Executive Summary
Plastic is involved in almost every industry today as a useful, cheap and popular material. Plastics are useful because they are durable, flexible, and can be easily molded into many useful shapes.
Because of its long-lasting properties, plastic does not degrade easily and accumulates waste rapidly if not being treated properly.
PlastiCure provides biological solutions to the problem of plastic waste by means of the genetic engineering of enzymes and metabolic pathways of bacteria, and the use of the engineered bacteria to eliminate waste in the most clean and energy favorable way.
Currently we are at the research and development stage, and working on a prototype product. Our product will be simply a container harboring the engineered bacteria and it will be used discard PET products, such as plastic bottles. The potential customers will be industrial plants in the beginning, and in the future will include the public sector.
PlastiCure’s product provides advantages to customers by resolving three main issues in the plastic treatment process: energy waste, pollution, and transportation issues.
In the United States, the plastics industry is the third-largest manufacturing industry. Today, an average person living in Western Europe or North America consumes 100 kilograms (220 lbs.) of plastic each year, and this figure is expected to grow rapidly as economies in the region expand. Americans use 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour, and generate 10.5 million tons of plastic waste each year. For that reason, among others, the USA was chosen as our target market.
Before entering the US market, the Israeli market will be used as a test market because it is a small country with relative isolation from densely populated media markets so that advertising to the test audience can be efficient and economical. Moreover, Israel is demographically similar to the proposed target market.
Our team includes 12 students from different academic backgrounds - humanities, natural sciences and engineering. The team is supervised by Prof. Lital Alfonta and Dr. Ramon Birnbaum from the Department of Biotechnology at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.
2. Company Description
Products and services
PlastiCure has produced a product that increases the biodegradation of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) in an efficient and environmentally friendly way. PlastiCure’s product will be a container where people discard PET products. Just as a recycling trash can is used for plastic materials only, the product will look like a regular garbage can. But, it should be viewed as a “black box” in terms of its inputs and outputs, with complex internal workings.
PlastiCure uses a form of enzymatic engineering which results in the breakdown of the PET molecule to create electricity. This electricity is used for the maintenance of the biological system itself. The end-result of this process feeds the bacteria that turns it into harmless and useful organic material.
Background to PlastiCure's development
Although plastic is a material that contaminates the environment, its use around the world is extensive and continues to increase each year. The current methods for plastic treatment, which will be described in the upcoming sections, 1) do not utilize the energy that exists in the plastic molecule and 2) do not break it down to organic material only. PlastiCure’s technique uses plastic’s existing energy and biodegrades it organically.
The subject of biodegradation of plastic has been greatly researched in the last few years. Studies that examine organic plastic biodegradation, in particular, helped advance our research. One such study uses a different bacteria and enzyme to similarly break down plastic; however, the bacteria that PlastiCure uses, Pseudomonas putida, has several advantages which go beyond existing products on the market, these will be elaborated herein. Most importantly, it is able to thrive in an electric environment.
Benefits and Features
There are a number of features and benefits of the PlastiCure method.
First and foremost, PlastiCure’s product is able to degrade plastic from start to finish without harming the environment.
The second important feature is the bacteria itself, Pseudomonas Putida.
- Pseudomonas Putida can break down many toxins, such as aromatic compounds. The terephthalate degradation pathway, derived from a strain of Commamonas testosteroni , terminates in protocatechuate, a toxic molecule for most bacteria, however, P. putida, is able to utilize it as a carbon source for its growth (Jimֳ©nez et al 2002).
- Electrochemical tests have proven that the Pseudomonas Putida is actively electrochemical, which means that, in a bio-fuel cell, it allows the production of electricity as part of the process (Timur et al 2007).
- Pseudomonas Putida has been extensively researched in laboratories and has established protocols for it usage.
The third important feature of this process is the use of a unique mutant variant of the LC Cutinase enzyme, which has the ability to degrade PET (Sulaiman et al 2014). PlastiCure utilize a set of mutations in the LC Cutinase gene to enhance its catalytic activity and stability hence increasing the rate and efficiency of the biodegradation process. The augmentation to the enzyme was designed with collaboration with Dr. Sarel Fleishman from the Weismann institute of science, Israel.
Advantages to customers
PlastiCure’s product resolves two main issues that are problematic in the plastic treatment process: pollution and transportation issues. Our potential customers will be industrial plants in the beginning, and in the future, will also include the public sector.
- Pollution - PlastiCure’s product responds to the negative impacts of existing systems such as recycling plants and landfills, by not creating any pollutants whatsoever. Recycling plants produce a number of pollutants to the environment. Plastic landfills release toxins to the soil and drinking water.
- Transportation - In most cases, recycling requires transportation of plastic garbage to recycling facilities which creates additional costs and is not effective. PlastiCure’s product only requires a one-time installation.
- Regarding safety - While Pseudomonas Putida is categorized in the risk 1 group, PlastiCure’s product will incorporate a self-destructive process to make it safe for the user. For more information
Disadvantages or weak points
- The use of biological methods increases the length of treatment beyond other methods.
- The size of PlastiCure’s product has to be fixed dependent on its use. This means that we are required to know in advance for what purposes the product will be used.
- At this time, the process focuses solely on PET degradation. As a result, an initial treatment of the plastic product is needed to isolate the PET.
While plastic treatment systems have their disadvantages, the production of new processes like PlastiCure can generate new ways of thinking about existing production methods. For example, plastic manufacturers could produce modifications to current products (e.g., PET bottle, caps, etc.) that are more effective and safer for the environment.
Long-term Aim of the Business
Our general aim is to create an alternative solution for the degradation of plastics that produces less disadvantages than the current solutions available today - most importantly, involving little to no negative environmental impact.
Or in our words:
Our aim is to provide biological solutions to plastic waste, by using means of genetic engineering of enzymes, and the use of a bacteria to eliminate waste in the most clean and energy favorable way.
- Mr. Yossi Shavit, Project Manager at the Bengis Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation.
- Fox School of Business, M.B.A Team: Amy Krauss, Christy Sheehan, Catherine Maloney, Pamela Mokodefo.
- Michael J. Rivera, Ph.D., M.B.A., Associate Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship, Temple University Fox School of Business.
3. Market Analysis
For more than 50 years, global production of plastic has continued to rise. Some 299 million tons of plastics were produced in 2013, representing a four percent increase since 2012. Recovery and recycling, however, remains insufficient, and millions of tons of plastics end up in landfills and oceans each year.
Worldwide plastic production has been growing with petroleum-based material gradually replacing materials like glass and metal. Today, an average person living in Western Europe or North America consumes 100 kilograms (220 lbs.) of plastic each year, mostly in the form of packaging. Asia uses just 20 kilograms (44 lbs.) per person, but these figures are expected to grow rapidly as economies in these regions expand (Gourmelon 2015).
Method Competition Analysis
Landfills - In 2013, 40% of the plastic used for packaging ended up in landfills. This solution is very cheap, but has many disadvantages - not only does it require lots of space, the plastic buried in the ground also pollutes soil and drinking water.
CHP (combined heat and power) plants - 14% of plastic waste was brought to CHP plants for energy recovery. These facilities use heat and plastic to produce new energy in a form of oil or electricity. This process releases a lot of toxins and pollutants into the environment, and its facilities are very expensive to operate.
Recycling - 14% of plastic waste ends up being recycled. Recycling is the most environmentally favorable solution, but recycling has many disadvantages. It produces low quality products that can only be used once, and it’s also not profitable compared to producing new plastic - in 2015, it was cheaper to produce a new PET bottle rather than recycle an old one. Moreover, one of the major problems is that the cost of picking up and transporting recyclables can range from $20 to $70 per ton, depending on the length and difficulty of the recycling truck routes. All of these reasons are making recycling less and less favorable by the plastics industry.
The other 32% of the plastic wasn’t being treated in any way at all, and ended up polluting the environment and the oceans.
Biodegradation SWOT Analysis
Target Market - USA
As far as American manufacturing goes, the plastics sector is among the most notable success stories (First American 2012).
- 12 million barrels of oil are used to make the 102 billion plastic bags that are used in the United States and about 2,480,000 tons of plastic bottles and jars are disposed of annually around the world. Almost all of them contain PET (EPA 2013)
- In the United States, the plastics industry is the third-largest manufacturing industry, and the outlook is strong, with everything from injection molding companies to 3D printing in high demand around the world.
- Plastics is a multi-billion dollar industry. In 2012, plastics manufacturers shipped approximately $373 billion in goods.
- In an encouraging sign that plastics manufacturers are optimistic about their industry, they spent upwards of $10 billion in 2012 on new capital equipment.
- Consumption of plastic products went up 5.7 percent between 2011 and 2012.
- In the last 25 years, manufacturing has dropped an average of 1.4 percent each year, while plastics manufacturing has increased at an average annual rate of 0.1 percent.
- Accumulated debris on beaches and shorelines can have a serious economic impact on communities that are dependent on tourism, while the debris may house invasive species that can disrupt marine habitats and ecosystems. Heavy items of marine debris can also damage habitats such as coral reefs and affect the foraging and feeding habits of marine animals.
- Waste management is one of 10 economic sectors highlighted in UNEP’s Green Economy Report launched last month, highlighting enormous opportunities for turning land-based waste, the major contributor to marine debris, into a more economically valuable resource.
The value of the waste-to-energy market, for example, was estimated at $20 billion in 2008 and increased 30 percent by 2014.
4. Go To Market Strategy and Business Model
For the beginning of the marketing process, we will choose companies and economic entities without profit: companies for which the environment is a top priority, such as schools, governments and specific industrial companies.
A test market, in the field of business and marketing, is a geographic region or demographic group used to gauge the viability of a product or service in the mass market prior to a wide scale roll-out.
We will choose Israel as a test market, because this market region includes a population that is demographically similar to the proposed target market – USA. Moreover, Israel is a small country with relative isolation from densely populated media markets so that advertising to the test audience can be efficient and economical.
6. Organizational Structure
- Timur, S., Haghighi, B., Tkac, J., Pazarlıoğlu, N., Telefoncu, A., & Gorton, L. (2007). Electrical wiring of Pseudomonas putida and Pseudomonas fluorescens with osmium redox polymers. Bioelectrochemistry, 71(1), 38-45.
- Jimenez, J. I., Minambres, B., Garcia, J. L., & Diaz, E. (2002). Genomic analysis of the aromatic catabolic pathways from Pseudomonas putida KT2440. Environmental microbiology, 4(12), 824-841.
- Sulaiman, S., You, D. J., Kanaya, E., Koga, Y., & Kanaya, S. (2014). Crystal structure and thermodynamic and kinetic stability of metagenome-derived LC-cutinase. Biochemistry, 53(11), 1858-1869.
- US EPA - Environmental Protection Agency (2013), Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: Facts and Figures Report.
- First American Plastic Molding Enterprise (2012), 10 Facts about the U.S. Plastics Industry
- Gaelle Gourmelon (2015), Global Plastic Production Rises, Worldwatch Institute.
- University of Cambridge (2005), Recycling of Plastics, the Improving Engineering Education (impEE) project.