By external blogger Molly Morse, winner of the 2012 Postcode Lottery Green Challenge. Part of this blog was previously published by the Huffington Post.

A Green Challenge and Opportunity


I'm the kind of person who cringes at the use of disposable plastic silverware. I have been known to scold people who answer "yes" when the grocery clerk asks if they want a bag, and I regularly rescue plastic bottles from trash cans for recycling. Whenever I see my 16-month-old son chewing on a plastic toy, cup—or whatever else he can find—I can't help but worry about what's in the plastic.


Every parent asks questions about the plastic in their house - where it came from,  what exactly it's made of - and on top of these, I also ask the questions, where is it going when I'm done with it, and just how sustainable is its production? As an environmental engineer, I can tell you that many of the answers can be frightening. However, thanks to the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge contest for world-changing green business ideas, my company Mango Materials hopes to change all that – for families, companies and the whole economy. We produce biodegradable plastics from waste methane gas, and this year we were honored to be selected as the winner of the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge. This award brings both worldwide exposure and an award of 500,000 euros.
Postcode Lottery Green Challenge

The Dutch Postcode Lottery have been organising the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge since 2007. This year, they received over 500 submissions from sustainable, creative, innovative businesses whose products or services reduce CO2 emissions.

We entered the competition by diligently answering specific questions about our business proposition, and our entire team pitched in to help. At the end of August we received a phone call from the Netherlands – we had been selected as one of six finalists and were invited to Amsterdam to pitch our business idea to a panel of worldwide experts and leaders!

Over the following weeks I got to know the other five finalists well. Their passion, knowledge and enthusiasm for their respective businesses is inspiring and helped to make this competition a truly enjoyable experience. I loved my stay in Amsterdam as well – although I was busy preparing for the final competition, I managed to sneak in a few side trips to see the historic windmills, bike through sprawling farmlands and eat amazing cheese, chocolate and apple pie.

After an intense but rewarding question and answer closed-session with the expert jury, and presenting to a worldwide audience, we learned that we had been selected as one of the top three companies in Amsterdam. Several of our team members met up in New York City for the announcement of the overall winner at a dinner held in conjunction with the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI). When Mango Materials was declared the winner, we were speechless! We feel honored by the recognition the award brings, and the funds will truly help us move along the path to commercialization.


MangomaterialteamThe entire team of Mango Materials at a celebration party after winning the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge

Mango Materials 

For those who might be curious to hear more about what we do, Mango Materials produces non-toxic, biodegradable plastics that will reduce global warming and can be used for many applications, including anything that could wind up in your child's mouth. Current plastics are everywhere, and they are produced from non-sustainable petrochemicals and persist indefinitely in landfills and the natural environment. Mango Materials is excited to change this through our new plastic that is produced from waste methane gas and will degrade at the end of its useful life. With our plastic, parents won't need to worry about that new plastic toy their child has been chewing on recently!

Our bioplastic is made by bacteria using methane, an extremely potent greenhouse gas that is abundantly available and often considered "waste". We produce pellets which can be converted into a variety of plastic products such as children's toys, electronic casings, water bottles, and food packaging.

Our bioplastic will replace conventional plastics that accumulate in the environment (think: Great Pacific Garbage Patch!) and in landfills, harming ecosystems and consuming space and resources. Mango Materials' bioplastic naturally biodegrades back to methane; thus, the process can be a completely closed loop, cradle-to-cradle solution.

There is a multi-billion dollar global plastics market, and we hope to have far-reaching impacts on this market that will not only reduce plastic waste but will also curb greenhouse gas emissions.

It's been a long journey from the lab at Stanford, where my colleagues and I came up with the idea for Mango Materials while we were PhD students. We have felt for a while that this is a world-changing idea, and we are so excited to have the chance to enact that change!