So much waste ... what could we do with it, beyond producing energy and compost? EU-funded researchers are looking into ways to turn biowaste generated in our cities - notably by homes, restaurants and shops - into a number of bio-based products by means of integrated biorefineries.
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The Res Urbis project, launched in January 2017, intends to put urban biowaste to good use for the production of bioplastic and a number of related products. It is designing integrated facilities for this purpose, where all relevant processes would be grouped. Types of biowaste considered by the partners include not only food and kitchen waste but also sludge from the treatment of wastewater, residue from gardens and parks, and nappies.
The project intends to use this material as feedstock for the production of bioplastic more specifically, polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) as well as biosolvents employed in PHA extraction and fibres for use in PHA-based composites. It will also investigate various possible uses for its plastic, such as the manufacturing of packaging film and materials for the remediation of groundwater.
Res Urbis involves territorial clusters in Italy, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom, where the feasibility of the proposed concept and potential scenarios for its implementation will be explored. One option the partners are considering would be to set up separate bio-refineries to handle the relevant processes.
Alternatively, the required facilities could be added on to existing wastewater treatment or anaerobic digestion plants. Alongside their experimental activity and work on technical issues, the researchers will perform market analyses and look into ways of filling regulatory gaps.