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This Toronto 28-year-old received a chunk of Amazon's $2B fund for her tech company

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Amazon invested a portion of a $2-billion climate fund earlier this month in a company created by a 28-year-old Toronto scientist who turns food scraps into alternative plastics.

Luna Yu, CEO and founder of Genecis, says she dove into the bioplastics world at 22-years-old. At the time, her budget was dismal and approach was scrappy – but creative, as she put it.

“We went out to Canadian Tire and bought a couple of rice cookers, and then we actually retrofitted the rice cookers and made them into bioreactors ourselves,” Yu told CTV News Toronto.

The makeshift gadget she created as a fresh University of Toronto graduate emulated the aim of her company-to-be, Genecis.

“It’s super simple. It's almost like brewing beer, right? All you have to do is to actually feed food waste as a sort of energy source or food to bacteria,” Yu explained.

That bacteria consumes sugars and fatty acids from the organic waste. As it metabolizes, the bacteria converts food scraps into a biodegradable called Polyhydroxyalkanoate, or simpler, PHA.

A reactor growing PHA is photographed at the Genecis lab (Supplied). From there, PHA is extracted, purified and compounded into pellets, which are injected into molding machines to make an alternative to single-use plastics, like food and medical packaging.

“One product that we sort of experimented with launching ourselves last year is in a textile market,” Yu said. Instead of making polyester shirts out of traditional synthetic plastics, Yu uses PHA as a replacement.

With a chunk of Amazon’s $2 billion Climate Pledge Fund secured, Yu is aiming to integrate her sustainable, biodegradable alternative to plastic into Amazon’s supply chain.

Genecis employees working at the office lab (Supplied). She could not disclose the amount of money received. An Amazon spokesperson told CTV News Toronto the investment in Genecis came from the fund’s $50 million Female Founder Initiative, but could only confirm these investments range from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars.

“That's going to be able to help us altogether amplify our overall impact, right? Because our goal in the next 10 years is to essentially make PHAs as ubiquitous as possible,” Yu said. 

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