Production of PHA using paper mill wastewater

One of the targets of the EU-funded INGREEN project is the development of functional innovative ingredients for feed and biodegradable packaging applications from paper mill wastewater. To achieve this, biotechnological processes will be optimized to produce the right type and concentration of specific biopolymers called polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs).

PHAs are polyesters that can be produced in nature by microorganisms through bacterial fermentation of sugars and lipids. Due to the variation in carbon sources and fermenting bacteria many different PHA monomers can be produced to give materials with extremely different properties. In the INGREEN project we will demonstrate this sustainable and efficient tailor-made biotechnology in real operational environments. The PHA-enriched biomass developed in the INGREEN project will be used to produce bio-based prototypes of feed containing health-stimulating prebiotics and also biodegradable packaging applications.

These PHAs can function as prebiotics which may form part of a healthy diet and are also used in the production of bioplastics. The mechanical properties and biocompatibility of PHA can be adapted by (i) blending different types of PHA, (ii) enzyme-modification and blending the PHA with other polymers and organic materials. In the INGREEN project, Smurfit Kappa Italy is the industrial site where the paper mill wastewater is collected. Innoven is the organization responsible for the optimization of the bio-fermentation at pilot plant scale to produce PHA from this side stream. The company Avecom is using the PHA-enriched biomass to design immune-stimulating feed for chickens and shrimps by blending it with other food sources. Before the innovative feed is tested in real animals, the prebiotic effect of the PHA-enriched biomass will be tested in the laboratory by the ITT Institute in Ireland. The company Smurfit Kappa France will demonstrate the application of PHA to produce a Bag-in-Box packaging containing a recyclable and biodegradable plastic film. To reach this point, first NOVA ID will isolate the PHA from the biomass, and Tecnopackaging will produce the bioplastics, design the proper blend of bioplastics, and produce the plastic film for the final application.