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Novel sustainable bioprocesses for the European colour industries

Final Report Summary - SOPHIED (Novel sustainable bioprocesses for the European colour industries)

Colour… reflexion of our mood, feelings, society codes, belief or personality… Adding it on textile, plastic, hair, cosmetic or food, man has never stopped inventing new processes to colour his life! But are we really aware of their influence on health and environment? From the dyes and auxiliaries used for the dyeing and finishing yarns and fabrics, to polluted wastewaters, the colour industry can have a non-negligible impact on worker's and consumer's health, as well as to the environment. The traditional colour industry was an important activity in Europe until the end of 20th century.

It suffers now displacement to the developing world due to increasing production related environmental costs as well as high labour costs in Europe. Azoïc dyes are the largest group of dyes, both in terms of tonnage production as well as the number of different structures. Unfortunately, a survey of oral acute toxicity of 4 461 dyes as measured by the 50 % lethal dose has revealed that azo and cationic dyes are the most toxic, and there is ample evidence of the mutagenicity of certain dyes, especially azo dyes and amino-substituted dyes such as 4-phenylazoanilin.

Additional problems are that the chemical synthesis pathways, as well as the dyeing of fibres are non-environmentally friendly processes, as during dyeing processes, approximately 10 % to 40 % of the dyes are not consumed on the substrate to which they are applied, and find their ways into wastewaters. They are flushed into the environment and constitute a non-negligible risk to living organisms. When raw materials are imported from the Far East (India, China, Indonesia, …), their production, made under conditions which are unacceptable in Europe, increases the worldwide sum of global pollution.

SOPHIED has developed a procedure to determine as objectively as possible, the repartition of the intellectual property amongst partners, based on reports and deliverables (pre-existing know how, idea, material, experiments, results…). The introduction of patents were coordinated as well as the sharing of IP between inventors and the writing of contracts (NDA, co-ownership, licence, …). Continuous analysis of patents, legislations and markets were carried out in order to help in decision making. SWOT, PESTEL and costs analyses on the marketable products and services developed through the project, were built in order to prepare the entrance on the market with dedicated marketing plans. A Japanese ministerial delegation came to Belgium and asked to get a meeting with SOPHIED managers to get advised about good practices in IP management between academics and enterprises.

As a conclusion, this research led to:
1) new safe Ecocolourants TM;
2) enzymes to be used in bioprocesses;
3) new toxicity tests to replace animal testing; and
4) engineering equipment to be used in bioprocesses.

1) New safe Ecocolourants TM produced through bioprocesses
The Ecocolourants TM produced were screened for their safety, following the stages of toxicity assessment (before GLP) in agreement with the Registration Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals (REACH) legislation. Some safe natural dyes (starting from plants) were also developed. Industrial quality has been continuously evaluated. As a whole, the Ecocolourants TM and natural dyes presented here are the result of a strong selection among more than five hundred coloured molecules.

2) Enzymes to be used in less energivorous and sustainable bioprocesses
For example, bioprocesses to produce Ecocolourants TM thanks to enzymes have been developed as an alternative to traditional chemical synthesis. Chemical azo dyes synthesis requires phases of temperature up to 70-90 degrees Celsius and phases at 4 degrees Celsius, in harsh conditions requiring the presence of dangerous chemicals. On the contrary, enzymatic synthesis of Ecocolourants TM can be obtained at ambient temperature, under mild conditions. Those enzymes are renewable raw material produced by microorganisms grown on industrial by-products (therefore leading to the valorisation of a waste). A selection of enzymes with a range of industrial characteristics is available.

3) New toxicity tests to replace animal testing (European Council Directive 86/609/EEC)
Due to animal protection reasons many attempts were made recently to replace animal tests by more animal friendly procedures. Cytotoxicity tests with cell lines are one alternative which is presented here on mammalian and fish cells, as well as with fish eggs. During the registration process of chemicals, mutagenicity tests are an important but often quite expensive step. Therefore, to save samples, time and money, the basic assay, the bacterial reverse mutation test also known as Ames test has been miniaturised.

4) New equipment for bioprocesses
The validation, optimisation and scaling up of enzymatic bioprocesses, in particular with immobilised enzymes or biomass, require the development and use of specific engineering equipment. The equipment developed for the synthesis of Ecocolourants TM are presented here. They may be used for other enzymatic processes with free or immobilised enzymes. Another issue from the colour industry relates to their wastewater.

In SOPHIED, more than 600 microorganisms and enzymes were tested in order to reduce colour toxicity and mutagenicity. This catalogue presents also the pilots used to validate the process.

Additionally, SOPHIED led to:
i) increased biodiversity preserved in biological resources centres;
ii) efficient training and mobility that led to a strong improvement of RTD level of traditional SME's;
iii) submission of patents;
iv) activities with decision makers; and
v) a range of dissemination including participation to exhibitions, conferences, papers in scientific and general journals, radio and TV.