Bio-plastic (poly-hydroxy-alkanoate) production from municipal sewage sludge in the Netherlands: a technology push or a demand driven process?

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Courtesy of IWA Publishing

Valorisation of components from municipal ‘waste’ water and sewage sludge gets more and more attention in order to come to a circular economy by developing an efficient ‘waste’ to value concept. On behalf of the transition team ‘Grondstoffenfabriek’ (‘Resource factory’) a preliminary research was performed for all the Dutch water boards to assess the technical and economical feasibility of poly-hydroxy-alkanoate (PHA)-production from sewage sludge, a valuable product to produce bio-plastics. This study reveals that the production of bio-plastics from sewage sludge is feasible based on technical aspects, but not yet economically interesting, even though the selling price is relatively close to the actual PHA market price. (Selling price is in this particular case the indicative cost effective selling price. The cost effective selling price covers only the total production costs of the product.) Future process optimization (maximizing the volatile fatty acids production, PHA storage capacity, etc.) and market developments are needed and will result in cost reductions of the various sub-processes. PHA-production from sewage sludge at this stage is just a technology; every further research is needed to incorporate the backward integration approach, taking into account the market demand including associated product quality aspects.

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