Salad scraps. Grass clippings. Raked leaves and wood chips. Most people throw them away. Bill Camarillo, CEO of Agromin, headquartered in Oxnard, turns it into opportunity and innovation.
After 10 years in the Marine Corps, Camarillo, then 28, returned to California and worked in "line clearing," cutting vegetation from electrical and phone wires.
It was the early '90s. Newly passed California Assembly Bill 939 mandated yard waste recycling. Suddenly there was free green refuse everywhere. Some 90 million tons of it annually in California alone. New technology could process wood chips into "biomass" to be used as fuel for electricity production. But the waste had too much grass and leaves, and the technology wasn't efficient enough. Not yet.
In 1994, Camarillo bought Agromin, a 50-year-old "fertility products" company, and developed a system to sort, process, and blend some 200 soil products for different applications. Agromin champions innovation along each turn of the recycling loop, from biodegradable waste to compost that fosters nutrient-rich, earthworm-loving topsoil.
Camarillo's enduring dream will finally come to pass in 2012 with the opening of Agromin's "biodigester," a machine that will turn green waste into gas to be used for home heating and electricity, among other applications. "The technology is more efficient; biomass is becoming more economically viable and environmentally sound."
By now we've all read the stories about the state-sized mass of plastic waste floating beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean. GreenUp, an L.A.-based start-up founded by Will Roos and Jay Schapira, is trying to keep it from growing by pioneering a revolutionary new technology that literally makes plastics disappear over time.
Their technology, P-Life, is an additive that can transform ordinary plastic into a biodegradable form which naturally breaks down over time when exposed to the elements. GreenUp's first target is the $3-trillion disposable plastics industry.
GreenUp began producing a line of biodegradable, fully recyclable, commercial trash liners in 2010. The company has since launched an array of other biodegradable disposables, at a price comparable to their non-degradable doppelgangers.
GreenUp's sister company, Evive, holds the exclusive distribution rights in North America and Western Europe for the P-Life technology. But convincing brands and manufacturers to alter their plastic formulations proved glacially slow. So Evive launched GreenUp with the mission to develop and market products that employ the P-Life additive along with other promising new green technologies.
The irony of designing "environmentally friendly" trash is not lost on Roos. "As avid surfers, Jay and I originally set out to clean up our oceans. We discovered that we had to start by cleaning up our trash heaps."