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Bioplastics from Waste

Bioplastics from Waste Streams PHA from waste water Transformation of residual materials and waste water into valuable bioplastics By Onno de Vegt, KNN Milieu BV, Groningen, The Netherlands and Alan Werker, AnoxKaldnes AB Lund Sweden Bram Fetter, Suiker Unie Groningen, The Netherlands Ronald Hopman, Veolia Water Ede,The Netherlands Bas Krins, Applied Polymer Innovations Institute BV, Emmen, The Netherlands Rik Winters, Bioclear BV, Groningen, The Netherlands Since the 1980s biodegradable plastics, like polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs), have led a life of commercial anticipation alongside much advancement in science and engineering research, demonstrating the material potential. In spite of the progress evidenced in an almost overwhelming sea of publications in peer review and patent literature, PHA based bioplastics have not yet attained a mainstream commercial status - and that after more than 30 years. But why not? One may argue that it is purely a question of price competition with cheaper conventional non-biodegradable plastics. One may further argue that it is a question of material properties and/or a critical available mass of raw material needed to entice more widespread practical implementation and commercial commitment. These questions are part of the BioTRIP project that aims at defining the technical, environmental, organizational and economic principles in real life case studies that demonstrate a viable proof of principle for commercializing the production of PHAs from waste and other material streams. To this end the project BioTRIP (the Dutch abbreviation BioTRIP stands for, “BIOlogische Transformatie van Reststromen In marktgevraagde bioPolymeren”), with six commercial partners representing a residual to renewable resource stakeholder network, was established in November of 2011. The consortium of companies that cooperates in the development of the biopolymer concept in alphabetic order are Anoxkaldnes, API Institute, Bioclear, KNN, Suiker Unie and Veolia Water. Biopolymer production The key process is a novel concept being developed by AnoxKaldnes (Lund, Sweden) for the production of PHA in biological wastewater treatment plants and is known as the Cella technology. A variety of residual streams from municipal and industrial sources has been investigated over the past ten years and it has been observed that considerable potential for producing and extracting commercially relevant quantities of PHAs exists for open culture bioprocesses used for environmental protection. PHA’s are particularly attractive given the diversity of performance characteristics that can be achieved. Instead of using a pure culture of PHA producing bacteria, Activated Sludge Enriched for PHA Production Phenotypic Behaviour from Nile Red Staining 26 bioplastics MAGAZINE [04/12] Vol. 7

Bioplastics from Waste Streams the complex bacterial flora in a wastewater treatment plant are being employed. The process configuration and conditions are used to favor the enrichment of naturally occurring PHA-producing bacteria. The waste treatment plant is transformed from a waste sludge generation plant into a biopolymer production plant. In this way, wastewater becomes a raw material for renewable products and services. Moreover, other organic materials may also be of potential interest. When process residual management yields biopolymers as well as other gains and synergies in products and services one begins to enter a biobased society comprising an industrial ecology of environmental and bioresource engineering activities. To develop the biopolymer production technology further to the marketplace successfully using residual streams that would otherwise be a ‘waste’ for treatment requires the right balance. Striking the right balance, satisfying the interests of people, society and the plant, is the challenge of the BioTRIP project and its stakeholders interested in the development of a win-win economy embracing goals of a biobased society. The project, with its foundation in practical and real world implementation goals in specific case studies, focused on establishing viability of technical solutions towards commercial material flows in today’s marketplace. Practical questions that will be answered within the framework of the BioTRIP project are for instance: Can renewable platform chemicals be realistically derived from waste management services? Is there incentive to use the volatile fatty acid (VFA) potential of organic residuals as a platform to produce more than ‘just’ biogas? What is the potential to realize PHA quality with high-end market applications? What is the incentive and synergy potential up the value added chain? Do businesses lend support towards a full-scale technology demonstration? These questions are the core challenges of BioTRIP in case studies involving both industrial and municipal sources of enrichment biomass as well as industrial and municipal sources of residual carbons as a platform for PHA production. Fachkongress Biobasierte Polymere – Kunststoffe der Zukunft am 25. / 26. September 2012 im Umweltforum Berlin In support of the project objectives are prototype pilot facilities for producing kilogram quantities of enrichment biomass per week while treating residual streams from food industry (Eslöv Sweden) and organic contamination bioplastics MAGAZINE [04/12] Vol. 7 27

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