Trailblazing Entrepreneur Takes the Trash Out of Plastic Waste
Meet Science & Business Innovator Miranda Wang, CEO of BioCellection
Miranda Wang is our Entrepreneur in the Spotlight for her savvy combination of science and business innovation to solve an acute world problem. She is Co-founder & CEO of BioCellection, a culmination of her talents as an entrepreneur, environmental advocate, and inventor. There she brought together key stakeholders in the waste management and recycling space to turn unrecyclable plastic waste into renewable chemicals. BioCellection has recently partnered with the city of San Jose and the GreenWaste Recovery Center for a one-year pilot project to recycle the city’s film plastics — plastic products that are soiled by food or other substances.
Miranda has already accumulated a raft of awards and accolades, including a CNN “Tomorrow’s Hero,” one of New York Time’s 30 Visionaries with the Courage to Change the World, a UN Young Champion of the Earth, a winner of the Wharton Business Plan Competition, and the CITEO Circular Challenge International grand prize. She has also been a TED and VERGE speaker. Miranda’s BA in biology, philosophy, and engineering entrepreneurship from the University of Pennsylvania speaks to her diverse interests and incredible drive.
Miranda gave us insights into her company, its unique position in the recycling economy, as well as lessons learned and inspirations found along her entrepreneurial journey.
Describe the services or products that your company/organization provides or produces.
We turn currently unrecyclable plastic waste into chemicals. We make money by selling a waste treatment service to cities and waste facilities, and we also sell chemicals to clients in the automotive, paint and coatings, and textiles industries. We are as much a recycling company as we are a chemical company. We call ourselves a “circularity company” because we are literally creating a new position in the value chain that brings forward a circular economy.
How does your company/organization change the status quo in your industry?
We invent and scale recycling technologies for plastics that currently have no downstream markets. This means that our work has a lot of scientific merit because we venture into completely unchartered waters. What happens when dirty plastics with dirty and food grime on the surface react with our catalyst? Only we know. We’re also tasked to quickly scale up these processes so that they can make a tangible impact. It’s been an adventure to get our innovations out of the lab!
Which initiatives are you most excited about?
For our customers in the waste space, we are creating solutions that didn’t exist before for them, and this is exciting for everyone. With our solution, waste plants and jurisdictions would no longer suffer from the uncertain and shrinking markets of commodity waste plastics, and landfilling would no longer be the status quo practice. We are changing all of that.
We are bringing onto the market the world’s most sustainable and renewable chemical intermediates for a variety of synthetic materials. We not only prevent plastics from becoming pollution, but we also reduce petroleum dependence. I’m most excited about our scale-up efforts and expanding to tackle the multi-layer packaging problem next!
What sparked your entrepreneurial drive? How do you sustain it?
I’ve always ventured into unchartered waters to build something new — whether on top of an existing organization or by creating a new one. It’s been who I am since high school. The turning point at which I realized I could start a business was when I found my deep personal purpose through my quest to solve the plastic problem. I realized that something that would create this much value for the world can definitely make money. I co-founded BioCellection in 2015 to change the world through a for-profit.
I sustain my drive by getting out of the lab and meeting the people and seeing the places that we can help. Seeing what the future can look like and knowing how much better it would be pumps me up so much that three years in, I often can’t fall asleep at night.
What are the three most important lessons you’ve learned on your entrepreneurial journey?
1. Hire prudently. Always keep an eye out for talent, but only formally bring them on when there is really sufficient value for this newly added role.
2. Focus on what you know from talking to customers and experiencing their problem yourself, ignore the noise, and don’t follow the crowds.
3. Sometimes things move really fast, and sometimes painfully slow. You’re not always in control of the pace; it depends on the market. Learn to recover when things are moving slow so that you can catch the next wave.
What resources or sources of inspiration (podcasts, books, blogs, mentors, etc.) are most useful to you on a regular basis?
The most powerful source of inspiration for me is being in the environment. This means actually going to a waste plant, landfill, or seeing how textiles are manufactured and touring another company’s lab. Seeing is believing, and it’s also giving you the chance to discover the details and to experience it — helping you figure out how to recreate or reverse-engineer it. Moments like these have inspired me along my journey.
Alumni Ventures Group is pleased to present this profile of a female entrepreneur making a significant impact in the science, business, and environmental ecosystems.