Eight Innovators to Watch in 2020

From plastic recycling pioneers to landmine foes, these dreamers have big plans for the coming year

(Clockwise from left) Michela Puddu, Elias Sime, Richard Yim and Miranda Wang (Michela Puddu, Brett Moen, Richard Yim, YouTube)
smithsonianmag.com

Our New Year’s resolutions are likely to involve something prosaic like “eating more vegetables” or “not sleeping with my phone next to my pillow.” But we are mere mortals. These following eight innovators have goals like “get rid of landmines” and “invent an electric airplane.” We're going to keep our eyes on them in the coming year: we have a feeling their grand ambitions won’t be as easily abandoned as our healthy eating plans.

Plastic Recycling Pioneer Miranda Wang

Miranda Wang was just 18 when she and her friend Jeanny Yao discovered a bacterium that could digest certain types of plastic. The Canadian scientists, now in their mid-20s, cofounded BioCellection, a startup dedicated to improving recycling through chemistry. They use a chemical process to break down film plastics, like plastic wrap and plastic bags, into precursors to consumer products like perfume, carpets and clothing. They’re currently partnering with the city of San Jose, California, on a pilot program to recycle film plastics into valuable chemical products. They’re planning to scale up in the coming year.

“The long-term goal is to be able to recycle all of the city of San Jose’s—and other cities’—polyethylene plastic,” Wang, currently the company’s CEO, told SiliconValley.com.

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