How Ourobio is Transforming Industrial Waste into Biomaterials

Ourobio is co-producing PHA and bio-based pigments from low-value organic waste byproducts.
How Ourobio is Transforming Industrial Waste into Biomaterials
Image Credit: Ourobio
How Ourobio is Transforming Industrial Waste into Biomaterials
Image Credit: Ourobio

Our society has gotten used to extracting raw materials from nature, turning them into products, and then discarding them as waste. According to the UNDP, only 7.2% of used materials are cycled back into our economy after use.

This production model is detrimental to our planet.

However, some innovative companies, like Ourobio, are developing alternative technologies to transform this harmful production pattern. Ourobio, for example, is a biomaterials and circular economy company that develops engineered microorganisms to turn industrial byproducts into useful biomaterials.

Ourobio is Catalyzing the “Circular Bioeconomy”

It all started in early 2019 with an academic research project called “Transfoam” at the University of Virginia. Founded by Alec Brewer and Kobe Rogers, Ourobio was established one year later to prevent ocean pollution and promote the biodegradable plastics industry.

With an ambitious mission to accelerate decarbonization and support the circular economy, Ourobio developed a bio-based technology that transforms industrial waste into biodegradable plastics. Besides repurposing industrial waste to create biomaterials, the startup aims to replace toxic materials that are difficult to recycle and end up polluting the environment.

Ourobio is co-producing PHA and bio-based pigments from low-value organic byproducts.

Ourobio’s mission is reflected in the company’s name, inspired by the Ouroboros. This ancient symbol represents the cyclical nature of life and it’s often depicted as a dragon eating its own tail — a symbol that mirrors the closed-loop system the company aims to promote in our economy.

Ourobio’s Technology to Turn Waste into Biomaterials

Most industries generate by-products and waste during their production processes. Ourobio noticed this market opportunity and decided to collaborate with companies to turn their byproducts into key materials for their supply chain. With its bio-based technology, the startup assists companies in integrating circular economy principles into their practices.

Ourobio Co-Production in 3L Bioreactor (Credit: Ourobio)
We are using fermentation to create low-footprint, high-performance biodegradable plastic resins and additives, starting with pigments.~ Ourobio

What sets this technology apart is its ability to convert waste-based feedstocks into bio-based, biodegradable products in a single fermentation process

Our process is distinct in its ability to co-produce PHAs and pigments in a single fermentation process. ~ Ourobio

Unlike other bio-based plastics in the market, Ourobio’s products not only biodegrade in the soil, but they can also decompose in the ocean.

PHAs are certified compostable and both marine and backyard biodegradable under ASTM, ISO, AUS, and OECD standards and other certification bodies,

Engineered Microorganisms Promoting the Circular Economy

Although petrochemical products have been used for decades, they contribute to climate change, health problems, and pollution. Thanks to its engineered microorganisms, Ourobio can transform industrial byproducts and waste into healthy and eco-friendly petrochemical alternatives.

Ourobio’s proof of concept uses byproducts from the dairy industry to produce eco-friendly plastic resins and pigments. And to make things better, Ourobio’s innovative process can reduce the energy cost, water consumption, and carbon emissions associated with producing fully biodegradable products.

Altogether, our approach improves the economic viability of industrial biomanufacturing, offering cheese and yogurt manufacturers a more sustainable method of waste management; creating safe, low-footprint alternatives to synthetic plastics and pigments; consolidating the supply chainto offer additional energy-cost and water-use savings compared to traditionally-dyed plastics;and helping plastic converters and brands better appeal to their customers while meeting
circularity/sustainability goals. ~ Ourobio

With this circular economy solution, companies would be able to reduce waste, use resources efficiently, and create biodegradable alternatives.

In 2022, the startup received funds from the Environmental Protection Agency as part of the EPA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program to further develop its technology. Now, Ourobio is committed to using waste whey as feedstock to produce biodegradable pigments and a biodegradable polymer at the same time.

Plus, as they look to expand their eco-friendly initiatives, Ourobio has recently launched a dog toy brand named Phaws, which features toys crafted from PHA


After more than a year of development, we are excited to announce the launch of Phaws - our sustainable pet care brand aimed at stopping our furry friends from eating plastic. The brand's creation is centered around the creation of a tough, PHA-based treat-dispensing dog toy, which is the inspiration for its punny name. 🐶 🐾

Learn More

Final Thoughts

One common issue with conventional biomaterials is their tendency to divert land away from food production. And if that’s not enough, many of these biomaterials cannot fully biodegrade in the environment.

Despite these challenges, the startup Ourobio has successfully developed fully bio-based biodegradable materials that do not compete with food crops for land. Better yet, the startup stands out for its ability to repurpose industrial waste and create sustainable alternatives to petrochemicals, positioning itself as a valuable ally in advancing the circular economy.

Learn More About Ourobio:

1210 Waterway Blvd Suite 2000
Indianapolis, Indiana 46202

Website / LinkedIn

About the author
Cristina Solis

Cristina Solis

With a degree in environmental engineering, Cristina Solis shares her expertise in sustainability with various media outlets, including Forbes, American Recycler, Green Living Magazine, and more.

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