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The Clean Tech Summit has two new tracks this year; “Blue Tech” and “Circular Economy.” The focus of the latter is to address issues with material use and disposal such as plastics. Companies across the world are looking to inject themselves into the cycle to create a future with more sustainable product use. Some companies are facing the issue at the development end, creating products that biodegrade or can be recycled. Others are approaching the issue from the disposal perspective in finding new ways to reuse or recycle plastics and other materials typically sent to a landfill, or worse, the Ocean.

Jaap Schut is panelist moderator for this track and is the American representative for the Dutch consultancy company, PACE Business Partners. PACE’s role is to advise businesses on different sustainable development measures specifically relating to materials. PACE works with them to commercialize eco-products so that the company can benefit from the transition. In its five years of work, the company has seen great success. In a discussion with Mr. Schut, he described how the one of the biggest achievements of the company thus far has been to help get the Global Organization for PHA (GO!PHA) platform up and running. Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) are polymers that are naturally occurring and can be cultivated from bacteria. They are currently being used to create plastics that then can fully biodegrade. This organization wants to be a voice for PHAs to advocate for a transition to greater use of them as a substitute for the traditional plastics that are polluting the earth’s land and oceans. This big step for PACE proves the company’s dedication to a cleaner and more resourceful future.

Circular Economy UNC Clean Tech Summit

The Clean Tech Summit is such an amazing event because it creates an environment in which industry professionals can share their work and learn from each other. In addition, it is an opportunity for students and young professionals to network and get a better sense of the available career paths companies out there. Schut emphasizes the importance it has for students as a first step towards getting more involved in creating change. He says that students should “listen carefully” to find out more about how the topics are interconnected. Also, to pay attention to the facts because there is so much information out there that either unclear or not rooted in science. From there, he advises to educate and familiarize yourself with the different stakeholders and who the important players are. He says, “various stakeholders sometimes work together but don’t always see eye to eye but whatever students can do to build bridges and collaborate is great to solve these problems.”

Claire Bradley, Environmental Studies, B.A. Class of 2022
www.linkedin.com/in/clairewbradley
Image from: https://www.biobasedpress.eu/2016/08/pha-promising-versatile-biodegradable/