Rebranding the potato

McCain Foods and Enactus Canada award Mt. A student company Enviroot $20,000 grant

Potato peels can now build doghouses: thanks to the entrepreneurial talents behind Enviroot, this unconventional ingredient can now be used as a medium-density bioplastic in the production of furniture and tiles.

The Enviroot company came into being two years ago as a project by Enactus, an entrepreneurial group of six Mount Allison students: Zachary LeBlanc, Justin Trueman, Cole Cadorette, Kathleen Cowie, Philip Carolin and Matthew Hovey.  Enviroot offers an eco-friendly and socially responsible alternative to the currently marketed fibreboard, which contains formaldehyde, a known carcinogen. As a widespread product, fibreboard is hard to avoid, justifying a need for a safer alternative on the market.

Trueman, CEO, explained the science behind the Enviroot alternative: “The [potato] starch melts down and creates a bond between the potatoes’ particles that allows it to be strong, rather than using formaldehyde, which would do the same thing.”

Inspiration for commercialized bioplastics came from a $20,000 grant offered through a partnership with McCain Foods and Enactus Canada. Each year, the grant enables an Enactus team to pursue a social enterprise that would uphold Enactus Canada’s three pillars: environmental, social and economic sustainability.

Enviroot accomplishes these tenets by using the waste potato peels from McCain Foods’ manufacturing to create the fibreboard that can be marketed and used in everyday life.

The partnership with McCain Foods also provides Enviroot with access to vital resources such as engineers, legal support and project management, which, according to Trueman, is “really useful, especially in the infancy of a startup. It’s something that other startups don’t really have access to, so it’s something we’re really thankful for.”

With the $20,000 in funding they received, Enviroot plans to get the product patented, a process that should take a couple of years, according to Carolin.

One of Enviroot’s long-term goals is to open a production plant in Florenceville, NB. Closer to the McCain Foods production site, the new location would minimize the environmental effects associated with transporting the potato peels. The move would further uphold Enactus’ environmental and social values by producing more jobs in the area. According to Carolin, Enviroot estimates improving the local employment rate by up to 3%.

The Enviroot fibreboard will soon be accessible to the general public. In the upcoming years, customers can look forward to purchasing the material at competitive prices.

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