Bacteria species can enhance the production of bioplastics from waste, according to new research.
European researchers are utilising bacteria to ferment gases derived from urban waste sources in order to produce bioplastics for use in industries such as medical prosthesis and packaging.
The Synpol project, which comprises a team of European-based biotechnology research scientists, has discovered that mixtures of bacterial species may enhance efficiencies of urban waste conversion.
It is a positive approach to get more out of organic fractions containing waste streams instead of landfilling
Felicitas Schneider, Institute of Waste Economics
Initial research is designed to transform complex raw materials such as municipal and chemical waste into biopolymers through the use of bacteria.
The method currently being developed thermochemically decomposes waste before being gasified to produce syngas, a synthetic fuel gas. Syngas is then used to derive carbon monoxide or dioxide and hydrogen which is coupled to fermentation techniques, using recombinant bacteria to produce bioplastic compounds.
“It is a positive approach to get more out of organic fractions containing waste streams instead of incineration or landfilling,” said Felicitas Schneider, researcher at the Institute for Waste Economics at the University for Natural Resources, Vienna.
However, some experts have raised concerns over how energy-intensive such conversion techniques might be.
“The crucial question is if the high-energy inputs of gasification of biomass wastes are suitable and if the gasification process will technically work for the aimed feedstocks,” said Achim Raschka, head of technology at the Nova Institute.
“These questions will be addressed via an economical and ecological analysis of the whole process in the project.”
The next stages of the Synpol project will determine which bacteria are more efficient in the production of bioplastics, as well as testing mixtures of different species of bacteria.