Small Vancouver startup believes it's created the solution to plastic pollution

Researchers working in partnership with UBC believe an eco-friendly material could help solve the world’s plastic pollution problem.

Bioform Technologies says its patented process involving kelp, wood fibre and minerals could produce a plastic-like material that’s environmentally friendly.

“It’s real and we’re planning on basically taking over,” said Ramy Younes, lead design engineer, with a slight chuckle.

The team launched in 2019 and currently has just six employees and a few UBC student interns. Younes says they’re currently in the testing phase of their product, which could potentially have countless applications.

“Everywhere around you there’s plastic, so we’re hoping to be able to replace as much of it as we can,” said Younes.

One environmental advocate tells CTV News that the plastic problem increased during the pandemic, and is projected to get worse.

“We’re seeing upwards of 13 million tonnes of plastic entering the ocean every year at this point in time,” said Carlos Drew, executive vice-president of conservation at Ocean Wise. “Plastics are likely to triple by 2050.”

Younes says the process of creating the material includes custom printing, pressing and molding. He says they’ve tested out the material as a replacement for plastic mulch used in farming and plastic cutlery. Younes also claims its cost is similar to plastic, and that it decomposes in about six weeks.

“We’re not bringing something that’s cheaper and sacrificing material properties,” said Younes. “It’s a material property match to plastics and in some cases, better.”

Drew says he welcomes the idea of eco-friendly innovation.

“I do endorse this immediately as a potential replacement for single-use plastic because they will be bio-degradable if done correctly,” said Drew.

Bioform Technologies plans on moving to a bigger location to ramp up production in the next year.

Younes doesn’t hold back on his team’s ambition, saying the’ve already received interest from major manufacturers and food service industry leaders from around the world. With several countries already attempting to limit plastic use through regulation, Younes strongly believes it’s a product that could go global.

“That’s the dream.”