Entrepreneurial Spirit: Geoff Coates '89

WM asked 18 Wabash entrepreneurs:

What’s the most important thing you know about being an entrepreneur?

What should Wabash be doing to instill this "entrepreneurial spirit?"

The Next Plastic

Plastic has changed little since its heyday in the 1960s. It’s still ubiquitous, oil based, and dirty as hell for the environment. Makes you wonder what we’ve been doing all these years.

For one thing, not listening enough to chemist Geoffrey Coates. In his lab at Cornell University, he’s been reinventing plastic. Making it environmentally friendly and biodegradable—with orange peels.

The final product can be made into anything from Saran Wrap to medical packaging to beer bottles and naturally biodegrades in just a few months. Because it can be produced using recycled CO2 from carbon-spewing factories, simply making Coates’s plastic can help the environment.

While Coates’s natural polymers are more expensive to produce than most current plastics, he stresses that this isn’t just another radical innovation that will never make it out of the lab. Novomer, a company he co-founded in 2004, will see its green plastics used in high-end electronics in the next couple of years. Once production is scaled up, less-expensive mainstream consumer products, such as food containers, will follow soon after.

—from Esquire magazine,"Six Ideas That Will Change the World"