4 Minutes With…Molly Morse, CEO, Mango Materials

September 9, 2014 |

molly-morseIt seems to us in Digestville that if you open a door in Emeryville, California — roughly thirty companies tumble out, so hot is the early-stage activity there — and a lot of it about companies chasing high-value targets via methane. In the case of Mango Materials — the products are bioplastics, via bacteria — and heading the company is Molly Morse.

In 2012 she observed of herself: I am a bioplastics and biocomposites engineer with experience in construction management and I contributed to multiple patents in the bioplastics and biocomposites industries. I studied at Cornell University and Stanford University. While working extensively with Engineers for a Sustainable World, I traveled to India, where I saw firsthand the use of temporary building materials in provisional shelters in the wake of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. Seeing how these temporary materials were only used fleetingly motivated me to investigate and develop sustainable, biodegradable material alternatives.

“While consulting for a venture capital company, I realised the capabilities start-up companies have to transform the world and I became extremely excited about starting my own. I launched Mango Materials based off of intellectual property from my Ph.D. research and I currently work with long-time and new colleagues in the quest to produce environmentally friendly plastics from sources of waste. I’m extremely passionate about the environment and my sights are set on producing a truly green, affordable bioplastic that will have a positive environmental impact. In my free time I like to travel, race in triathlons, hike mountains, and eat dark chocolate and cheese. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area with my husband Tim, and our sons, Blake and Cole.”

Tell us about your organization and it’s role in the Advanced Bioeconomy.

Mango Materials utilizes a patent-protected process to manufacture bioplastic from inexpensive sources of methane gas. The San Francisco Bay Area-based company has proven the ability to produce the bioplastic poly-hydroxyalkanoate (PHA), which can be economically and functionally competitive with oil-based plastics.

Tell us about your role and what you are focused on in the next 12 months.

For the next 12-months Mango Materials is focused on producing larger volumes of commercial samples. Since our materials will biodegrade in marine environments, we are currently very excited about the potential to produce biodegradable plastics for use as microparticles. These plastics, commonly used as abrasives and exfoliates, have recently come under scrutiny for their persistence in the environment. Recent legislation is being implemented to outlaw non-biodegradable microbeads and Mango Materials is working to inform legislation and educate the public that not all plastics (bio-based, biodegradable or otherwise) are the same.

What do you feel are the most important milestones the industry must achieve in the next 5 years?

Consistent production of low, cost, stable, reliable bioproducts!!

Additionally, it would be beneficial to have: consistent labeling, widespread consumer education and acceptance as well as uniform metrics for product comparisons.

If you could snap your fingers and change one thing about the Advanced Bioeconomy, what would you change?

It is extremely difficult and complicated to truly measure the lifecycle implications various products and manufacturing techniques have on the environment. Therefore, I would use my magic skills to create a single, uniform standard that was widely publicized and accepted.

Of all the reasons that influenced you to join the Advanced Bioeconomy industry, what single reason stands out for you as still being compelling and important to you?

I firmly believe that we have the unique potential to change the way chemicals and materials are manufactured, leaving the world a better place.

You’ll be speaking at the next ABLCNext conference in San Francisco this November. What’s special about that week for you?

It is always great to catch up with colleagues.

What was your undergraduate major in college, and where did you attend? Why did you choose that school and that pathway? 

I chose to go to Cornell University because I was unsure what I wanted to study and Cornell had solid programs in many areas. I originally thought I was going to be a math major, but that lasted about 2 days. I switched to civil engineering and never looked back. Plus, I wanted to experience the seasons (and winter!) in upstate New York.

What hobbies do you pursue, away from your work in the industry? 

hiking, swimming, biking, running, photography

What are 3 books you’d want to have with you, if you were stranded on a desert island.

Prepare for Anything (Outdoor Life)


Harry Potter

What books or articles are on your reading list right now, or you just completed and really enjoyed?

The 4 Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Timothy Ferriss

The Hypomanic Edge: The Link Between (A Little) Craziness and (A Lot of) Success in America by John D. Gartner

Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well‐Being, Wisdom, and Wonder by Arianna Huffington

What’s your favorite city or place to visit, for a holiday?

I love so many places it is hard to decide!!

Although not a city, one of my favorite places is the Tuolumne area of Yosemite National Park.
I also love the south island of New Zealand, Murren (Switzerland), Amsterdam (Netherlands) and any island off the coast of Dubrovnik (Croatia).

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Category: Million Minds

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