The EU-funded researchers plan to demonstrate the process on a packaging production line before the project ends in October 2015. Packagers will not have to buy any major new equipment to make the bottle, a factor the project hopes will encourage them to make the switch, says PHBOTTLE’s coordinator Ana Valera of Ainia, an agro-food research and development centre in Spain.
During the early stages of the project, the researchers demonstrated how a bioreactor could be used to convert the sugars from juice wastewater into polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB), a type of biopolymer. They also developed a process to strengthen the PHB with cellulose extracted from crop waste, and added an encapsulated antioxidant to increase the shelf-life of the bottle’s contents.
Manufacturers would also be able to develop the new PHB for non-food packaging applications such as drugs and cosmetics, or for replacing some of the plastic used for making a vehicle’s interior parts, says Valera.