impact

Making the impossible possible

Sitting at a bus stop one day when she was 16, When Miranda Wang saw someone throw a plastic bottle into a trash bin, even though the recycling bin was right next to it.

“It just made me realize that the problem is so much bigger than the behavior of individual people,” she said. “Globally, only 9 per cent of plastics produced are actually recycled. That’s because as a society, we lack recycling technologies that can make virgin-quality products from plastic waste.”

“My project is a social impact startup developing and scaling up a new technology to recycle unrecyclable plastics. Over the past year, the project has snowballed, and we are seeing massive interest in this area,” she said.

Since starting up her company BioCellection, and winning the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Young Champions of the Earth prize in 2018, twenty-five-year-old Wang and her team have invented a US$ 5 million technology that breaks down plastics into chemical building blocks, upcycling them into higher value materials for manufacturing.

The first engineering drawings for the technology scale-up have been completed, and multiple materials from the resulting purified compounds from breaking down plastics have been tested.

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The company has already completed two thirds of a pilot programme to test the technology at scale with the City of San José, California, United States, and other tests have already been completed with Google among others.  

The team has expanded, with eight new hires instead of the projected four, winning grants and prizes including the Rolex Awards for Enterprise, Pritzker Environmental Genius Award and MIT Solve.

In addition to refining the recycling technology, Wang has appeared in magazines including TIME, the New York Times, Monocle, Marie Claire, National Geographic and many others over the last 12 months.  

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Do you have what it takes to be a Young Champion of the Earth? Stay tuned here to follow stories of previous winners and changemakers.

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Applications open in early 2020. Pressing submit makes you part of our change-maker community – get involved and be part of the conversation on environmental change.

The Young Champions of the Earth Prize, powered by Covestro, is UN Environment Programme’s leading initiative to engage youth in tackling the world's most pressing environmental challenges.