CPI aims to turn waste into plastic

CPI aims to turn waste into plasticA partnership between the University of Bath, the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) and ReBio Technologies Ltd is developing the use of modified strains of microorganisms to help manufacture bioplastics from organic waste products.

By feeding a variety of biomass-derived, second generation waste, such as scraps from food production or animal waste, to a modified strain of the Geobacillus bacteria, the partnership will produce D-lactic acid, which can then be used to create bio-based products.

The project intends to demonstrate that the process can be employed for lab-scale production, before then designing and demonstrating a scalable manufacturing process for industry.

Successfully doing so, CPI says, would address a need in the industrial biotechnology community to transition away from petrochemical and agricultural-based feedstocks.

The innovation centre, which works with clients to produce better products and more efficient manufacturing processes, adds that using second generation waste, which has little other value, would increase the economic worth of the process, while also addressing a growing waste problem.

CPI aims to turn waste into plastic
Geobacillus grows at high temperatures and can turn long chain sugars in non-food materials into the useful acid. This means that the production of D-lactic acid could be derived directly from fermentation, rather than current processes that require chemical conversion of other lactic acids from food-based feedstocks like starch. ReBio Technologies is an industrial biotechnology company that has previously used strains based on a Geobacillus host to produce bioethanol.

Should the technology be successfully demonstrated to work in industrial conditions, the partners say, it could realise an economic approach to turning sugars from agricultural, food and landfill waste into sustainable, high-value chemicals.

The project also hopes to develop a business model and identify partners for future development activities.

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Commenting on the project, Dan Noakes, Business Development Manager at CPI, said: “Bio-based polymers will have a major part to play in the fruition of the bio-based economy. D-lactic acid is a challenge to produce but it has the potential to open new markets for polylactic acid use in high-performance structural materials. Rebio’s technology will enable the use of a variety of waste sugars and this lends itself well to CPI’s aspiration to develop a sustainable biorefinery platform.”

Jonathan Glen, CEO of ReBio Technologies Ltd, added: “ReBio is committed to finding new ways to utilise waste in a sustainable and commercially-viable process. This programme and its successful outcome will help to strengthen our development, commercialisation, and manufacture of products that show the strength of UK innovation at its best.”

Professor David Leak of the University of Bath, who has been working with Geobacillus since the early 1990s, said: “Geobacillus are very versatile organisms for second generation processes using biomass-derived feedstocks. As they grow both aerobically and anaerobically they are easy to handle, and we have developed a suite of molecular biology tools which are a prerequisite for metabolic engineering projects such as this.”

Learn more about global biopolymer production, which is set to triple by 2020.

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