Veronica Hardwood-Stevenson is the founder and CEO of HumbleeBee, a startup working to synthesise the durable, high-performance materials invented by bees as a plastic alternative.
Her company’s invention, Hylaeus, reportedly “provides a blueprint for creating sustainable consumer materials”. The ‘‘biopolymer’ cellophane-like material — used by the Australian masked bee to waterproof their nests and protect their larvae — is resistant to heat, naked flames, acids and bases, and solvents.
The organisation aims to start using its product in the outdoor gear and apparel market, because the chances are that most people that choose to spend time in nature are those most likely to want to protect it.
“Plastic particles and chemicals have permeated ecosystems and organisms around the world, [from] foetal blood of babies [to] the most remote arctic lakes; it’s so pervasive, it’s terrifying,” Harwood-Stevenson told Syndey Herald.
After hearing about the properties of the masked bees in a scientific article, Hardwood-Stevenson travelled to Queensland to meet someone with a supply of the bees.
“It’s about biomimicry, about copying what’s in the natural environment, and we’ve been doing it in design for centuries, from plane wing design inspired by birds of prey to train shapes reflecting bird beaks,” she added to the newspaper.
Hardwood-Stevenson has a degree in reproductive anatomy and a Masters in Science Communication. She sits on the Return on Science Momentum Investment Committee, and she is a judge for KiwiNet’s Science Commercialisation Awards.
Tags: biodegradable, bioengineering, biomaterials, bioplastic, plastic, plastic pollution, plastic solutions