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The science behind Great Wrap

The science behind Great Wrap

At Great Wrap, we are at the forefront of a future where planet-friendly alternatives coexist harmoniously with our reliance on plastic. 

Our compostable stretch wrap, helps propel us towards this greener future. But the evolution doesn't end there — a realm of renewable resources offers vast opportunities to create bio-based plastics that redefine ecological standards.

Central to our mission are our incredible team, including Eddie Attenborough, PhD Candidate and College Head at Monash University, whose dedication to sustainability fuels our pursuit, driving us closer to a world where single-use plastics become a thing of the past.

Here we speak to Eddie, delve into his inspiring PhD journey, learn about his work with Great Wrap and discover a world where scientific ingenuity converges with environmental consciousness.

A bit about Eddie

Originally from Tasmania, Eddie moved to Melbourne to attend Monash University and complete a double degree in chemical engineering and science.

"One of the main reasons I wanted to do the double degree was to make a difference and help stop climate change — which was a key area I focused on in high school. I tried to find degrees that would challenge me and set me up for that in the best way possible," Eddie says. 

As Eddie studied, he fell in love with food engineering and bioprocessing engineering, which focused more on combining engineering principles with biological systems. As he neared the end of his degrees, Eddie started to look at his options for the future and was drawn to the idea of food and beverage engineering — especially within Australia.

"I wanted to explore the ways we can manufacture more sustainably and also look at waste and pollution and how we could reduce it," he says. 

How Eddie started his PhD

After Eddie completed his degrees, and in the middle of the pandemic, he engaged in research within the Department of Chemical Biological Engineering at Monash that looked into how to make novel food products from jackfruit. Through this project and networking opportunities, Eddie was introduced to many people and companies, leading to a reconnection with our Co-founder at Great Wrap, Jordy Kay. As many companies do, Great Wrap had come to Monash with a key research problem. Jordy immediately approached Eddie and his supervisors to look at waste valorization (how to turn waste into compostable products).

"We collaborated with Jordy and the Great Wrap team, and we were lucky enough to get a great research grant, which connects industry and research together. At the end of the six-month project, we were able to specify some bacteria that were really good at converting food waste into biodegradable plastic," Eddie says. 

From this exciting research and its results, Eddie's projects naturally evolved into a PhD — an amazing opportunity for Eddie's team, Monash University and Great Wrap to collaborate, all benefit from the research, and pioneer a journey to develop better alternatives to traditional plastic products. 

The power of PHAs

Eddie's PhD topic is converting food waste into compostable stretch plastic, and one of the key areas he and his team are looking at is polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs). PHAs are a biopolymer we can use to make sustainable, compostable plastic. But what makes it even better is that it's marine degradable.

"CSIRO and Monash University produced a paper in 2020 showing that they estimate about 14 million tons of microplastics to have accumulated on the ocean floor. And so to have a plastic product that is marine degradable to replace the plastic that is currently entering our oceans would be a game changer," says Eddie. 

PHAs are created by specific bacteria when exposed to particular stressors and stored as feedstock, similar to how we store fat in our bodies. We can force these bacteria to create more PHAs by limiting carbon sources, such as glucose, from sustainable sources like food waste and extracting the polymer to make a bioplastic. And this is exactly what Eddie is doing at Monash University.

"A good example here in Victoria is potato waste, but around the world, sugar cane waste and cassava waste have been used. Any starchy waste can be used to create glucose and therefore feed the bacteria and create a polymer," says Eddie.

By creating PHAs from sustainable sources, Great Wrap can offer better products for the planet at scale and lower our carbon footprint even more. And the research conducted by Eddie and the team at Monash will pave the way for more environmentally friendly alternatives to manufacturing our compostable stretch wrap.

Together, we and our partners — including Eddie, Dr Marty and our innovation team — stand as champions of positive change, determined to make our vision a reality. The evolution is ongoing, and the possibilities are endless. We can't wait to see the future of new scientific innovations here at Great Wrap and beyond.

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