John Bissell ’08 is turning wastewater into biodegradable plastic.
Your sludge is his plastic.
Bissell has developed a technology and a business around converting municipal wastewater sludge into high-performance biodegradable plastics. This innovative technology is making huge advancements in plastics manufacturing and helping to solve one of the world’s toughest environmental challenges.
Bissell’s company, Micromidas, uses water and microbes native to the earth's soil to make plastics that are as durable as conventional plastics. However, unlike petroleum-based plastics that can take centuries to degrade, Micromidas plastics can decompose in just a few months if placed in a landfill, compost pile or even the ocean.
Frank Loge, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at UC Davis, introduced Bissell to the bioplastic concept as an undergraduate student. Bissell and a team of UC Davis students entered the technology into the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Annual P3 — People, Prosperity and the Planet — design competition and won the $85,000 grand prize.
Bissell then enrolled in the UC Davis Green Technology Entrepreneurship Academy where he learned the skills needed to turn his technology into a viable business. Since then, Micromidas has put the technology into practice and turned it into a viable, marketable solution. UC Davis was and continues to be an integral part of Bissell’s success, he said.
“Enabled by what I learned at UC Davis, I felt like I could conquer the world,” said Bissell, who won the Cal Aggie Alumni Associations' 2013 Young Alumnus Award. “I still feel that way.”