Organic Waste Streams with Nutrient Content for Sustainable Agriculture

Student: Rachel Mlsna, 2019-2020

Sponsor: mobius, Lenoir City, TN

Creation of a world in which there exists Wonder in Waste is the aim of mobius, a sustainability startup with a present focus on the development of biodegradable lignin-based polymers. The microorganisms that break down biodegradable polymers in environments such as compost or soil require nutrients beyond those contained in the polymers. Therefore, biodegradable plastic should incorporate the necessary micro and macronutrients required for degradation. The addition of further nutrients to benefit other plants and organisms in the soil would add value to biodegradable plastics in horticultural and agricultural spaces. With the incorporation of these nutrients into biodegradable plastics, their degradation at a predictable rate could provide slow-release fertilizers to plants. This would address present issues with traditional fertilizer application, such as runoff and soil burnout. The focus of this project is the exploration of industrial organic waste streams in order to determine their usefulness in providing nutrient content that aligns with the material properties of mobius’s lignin-based polymers. This would allow sustainable sourcing of necessary micro and macronutrients, moving beyond traditional chemical processes toward a circular economy.