ITENE obtains biopolymers from orange peel, romanesco and FORSU waste


CATEGORY: Material innovations BRAND: ITENE

In the BIOWASTE2PACK project, supported by IVACE, these alternative raw materials have been obtained, which have the same quality as the bioplastics currently available in the market.


The ITENE research centre has obtained biopolymers from agricultural waste (orange and romanesco peels), as well as from FORSU (organic fraction of municipal solid waste) that have the same properties and quality as the biopolymers currently available on the market. This has been possible thanks to the development of biotechnological or enzymatic valorisation processes that manage to synthesise these bio-wastes through the action of micro-organisms that give rise to compounds with high added value. Coatings with bacterial cellulose have also been developed which have significantly improved the properties of paper.


All these advances have been achieved within the framework of the BIOWASTE2PACK project, financed by the Valencian Institute for Business Competitiveness (IVACE) through FEDER funds, in which three lines of work have been developed with the goal of responding to the high demand for new biodegradable, compostable and bio-based biopolymers in view of the requirements of the European Union in terms of circular economy.


The first line of work has focused on pre-treatment and conditioning processes of organic waste from the agri-food industry (orange peels and romanescu) and urban waste to be used as raw material for the biosynthesis of compounds of interest and high added value.


To this end, the composition of the waste has been analysed to design an appropriate pre-treatment for each of them. To this end, 3 ad hoc enzyme cocktails have been developed for each type of waste, allowing the performance of the enzymatic hydrolysis - a process consisting of the decomposition of organic substances with the intervention of enzymes called hydrolases, followed by a fermentation phase - to which they have been subjected to be increased, thus avoiding, or reducing the generation of toxic compounds. In this way, pre-treatment protocols have been developed that make this waste an ideal culture medium to produce the different biopolymers that are the object of this project.


The second line of work consisted of the development of advanced fermentation processes to obtain new sustainable materials for the packaging industry. In this sense, it has been possible to isolate strains that produce lactic acid, bacterial cellulose and PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoates), which are valid for producing biomaterials and packaging components. In addition, key variables have been identified to improve yields in the production of the new materials (pH, temperature, solid loading, etc.) and costs have been minimised.


Finally, highly efficient processes for purification and validation of the materials produced have been developed to adapt them to their potential use as packaging materials. In this way, biopolymers (polylactic acid - PLA, PHA and bacterial cellulose) have been obtained with alternative raw materials and with the same quality as the biopolymers currently on the market.


In addition, the bacterial cellulose obtained has improved air permeability values by more than 98%, as well as new barrier properties against grease and water. With this material, coatings have been created that have significantly improved the properties of the paper.


The results of this project were presented on 18 June at a technology transfer session available online. BIOWASTE2PACK provides key solutions in the revaluation of undervalued waste that currently pose management problems, providing an outlet for them in the biopolymers sector, a booming sector.


The development of these optimised processes for obtaining bioplastics will allow the introduction of new 100% biodegradable materials in the packaging market and the use of alternative raw materials, in line with European requirements in terms of circular economy.


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