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Combining academia with entrepreneurship to tackle microplastic pollution

Thursday, September 13, 2018

The sun is coming up while Lake Erie waves crash against the shoreline as Lauren Smith sits with her toes in the sand, feeling right at home. Nothing feels more right to her than being near the water. This is probably why she has always felt as if it needed protecting, and what led her to create a business that does just that.

“The issue of microplastics in the water supply is a growing concern,” said Smith. “The company I founded aims to remove the microscopic synthetic fibres that come off our clothes during the laundry cycle before they have a chance to enter our watersheds.”

Lauren SmithSmith participated in the Collaborative Water Program while completing her master’s degree in Environment, Enterprise and Development. She was drawn to the program because of its interdisciplinary nature, bringing together students from different departments to share their experiences and ideas on water-related challenges.

“Being in the Collaborative Water Program provided me with a unique opportunity to interact with people from all different fields and backgrounds in a low-risk setting like a classroom,” said Smith. “This has prepared me well for the regular interdisciplinary interactions I have now with my business, and for further academic studies where I will address complex water-related problems.”

Since founding PolyGone Technologies in 2017, Smith has secured a total of $90,000 in funding from six pitch competitions and several granting programs. She is truly making waves in the water industry, blazing the trail for other young, female entrepreneurs. Currently, Smith is working with research groups and industry partners to help refine PolyGone’s technology.

Lauren Smith pitching at AquaHacking 2018

“I hope to make a significant impact on the microplastic problem by providing a technology that reduces the discharge of microfibres.”

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