Graduate student Anna Lewis joined the Collegiate Biobased Network (CBN) “to become part of a larger network of individuals my age working towards common goals in sustainability. Through CBN, I hope to continue to be inspired by people with similar passions and interests.”
Sponsored by the United Soybean Board, CBN is open to all college-level students with an interest in biobased products.
Here is Anna’s story:
During a 2019 summer program in Costa Rica, Anna Lewis grew acutely aware of the world’s plastic waste problem. Then a junior at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Lewis traveled to Costa Rica through Florida State’s Global Scholars Program where she worked as a teaching assistant in a local school.
“It was during my time teaching in Costa Rica that I really became aware of the plastic waste problem, and I have been obsessed with trying to find a solution ever since,” said Lewis. “I was so impressed that the school where I taught had a comprehensive environmental science program for kids. From a young age, children in Costa Rica are taught how to live more sustainability and are educated about the dangers of petrochemicals, the importance of reducing the use of plastic and also finding ways to reuse it.”
Lewis explained that in Samara, on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, where she spent the summer, it was a big priority – and almost a societal expectation – that residents would keep the town very clean and free of plastic waste because they rely heavily on ecotourism for their livelihoods.
Her experience in Costa Rica compelled Lewis to apply for an internship with Danimer Scientific. Headquartered in Bainbridge, Georgia, Danimer is a pioneer in creating more sustainable, natural ways to make plastic products. For more than a decade, its renewable and sustainable biopolymers have helped create plastic products that are biodegradable and compostable.
Danimer produces resins that are used by major brands such as Mars, Incorporated and PepsiCo., to make products that are fully biodegradable and can replace many plastics made with petrochemicals. These resins can be found in a vast array of every-day plastic end products.
In 2020, the United Soybean Board awarded the company a $350,000 grant to investigate the use of high-oleic soybean oil (HOSO) in the production of polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA), a biodegradable alternative to traditional petrochemical plastic. The goal of the year-long project is to develop a practical model for using HOSO to manufacture sustainable biopolymers for use in products such as drinking straws, water bottles, flexible film packaging, disposable cutlery and more.
“In the U.S. we tend to look at things linearly, but plastic is something we can address with new technology — like what Danimer has developed — that can close the loop for our waste,” Lewis said. “It’s been exciting to work for Danimer as they develop innovations to help solve the plastic waste problem we face.”
During the summer of 2021, Lewis worked as an intern on Danimer’s marketing team where she monitored state and federal legislation; developed and designed technical data sheets; worked on consumer outreach and education and more.
Lewis completed her undergraduate degree in 2021 with a major in International Affairs and a minor in Environmental Science & Policy. Lewis begins a master’s program at FSU in Urban and Regional Planning (Sustainable Development Planning) in 2021, and hopes to spend at least one semester abroad.
“Following graduation from my master’s program, I plan to pursue a career advocating for reduction of single-use petrochemical plastics that allows me to travel and work on an international scale,” Lewis explained.
For more information, about Danimer Scientific, visit www.DanimerScientific.com.