SEAWEEDS FROM SUSTAINABLE AQUACULTURE AS FEEDSTOCK FOR BIODEGRADABLE BIOPLASTICS
BANTRY MARINE RESEARCH STATION LIMITED
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Julie Maguire (Dr.)
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ALGAPLUS PRODUCAO E COMERCIALIZACAO DE ALGAS E SEUS DERIVADOS LDA
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STICHTING WAGENINGEN RESEARCH
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CIIMAR - Centro Interdisciplinar de Investigação Marinha e Ambiental
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Grant agreement ID: 606032
1 October 2013
30 September 2015
€ 2 000 868,89
€ 1 490 000
BANTRY MARINE RESEARCH STATION LIMITED
Seaweed – A sustainable source of bioplastics
FOOD AND NATURAL RESOURCES
CLIMATE CHANGE AND ENVIRONMENT
Grant agreement ID: 606032
1 October 2013
30 September 2015
€ 2 000 868,89
€ 1 490 000
BANTRY MARINE RESEARCH STATION LIMITED
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Final Report Summary - SEABIOPLAS (SEAWEEDS FROM SUSTAINABLE AQUACULTURE AS FEEDSTOCK FOR BIODEGRADABLE BIOPLASTICS)
SEABIOPLAS aimed to introduce sustainably cultivated seaweeds as feedstock for biodegradable bioplastics. Europe produced 49.2 million tonnes of plastics in 2012, with the majority being used in the packaging sector. The production of plastics puts a strain on our already depleting fossil fuel resources. It also impacts on the environment in terms of recyclability and biodegradability. Therefore there was a need for increased production of biomass-based, biodegradable plastics in order to achieve the EU2020 target of 10% of market plastics being bioplastics. PolyLactic Acid (PLA) is one of the leading contributors to bioplastic growth. PLA was the most produced biodegradable-biopolymer in Europe in 2013. It is a sustainable alternative to petroplastics and is compostable and biodegradable. Currently, the production of PLA and other bio-polymers is based on the use of important food sources for humans and animals (e.g. corn, wheat, sugar beets and sugar cane) and other natural resources. With the production of bioplastics expected to rise, the use of these resources will also increase and compete with food and energy production. This in turn will have effects on biomass prices and environmental degradation. SEABIOPLAS has developed a greener alternative to these terrestrial crops.
In 2013 world seaweed production (almost exclusively from aquaculture) was just under 25 million tonnes. Of this, Europe was only responsible for 1.3%. The main markets for seaweed are food, industrial specialities, fertilizers, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and feed. Controlled cultivation of seaweeds allows for high traceability, management of biomass composition and properties, high quality and sustainability. Sustainability is further increased when cultivation of seaweed is carried out in Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA) systems. IMTA systems work by incorporating the waste products produced by one species into the diet of another species. Aquaculture produces phosphorus and nitrogen in large quantities that are lost to the surrounding ecosystem. Over 67-80% of nitrogen and 50% of phosphorus fed to farmed fish goes into the environment, either directly from the fish or from solid wastes. Seaweed is able to utilise this nitrogen and phosphorus and produce new biomass through photosynthesis, thus removing these excess nutrients from the surrounding area. As well as the benefits of seaweed in IMTA, it also has several advantages over using the raw materials currently used in biomass-based plastics, including a reduction of CO2 emissions, higher productivity, no risk of potential deforestation, no freshwater consumption and no fertilisers or pesticides used.
After the sustainably grown seaweed has been processed to produce lactic acid (the precursor to PLA), seaweed residues will be generated. These by-products have a value in the animal feed sector and can also be used as ingredients or supplements/additives. Currently, many additives come from SE Asia so the possibility of a European supply is beneficial. The capacity of both the cattle sector and fish aquaculture sector to absorb seaweed by-products as new ingredients is very significant. Waste represents enormous losses of resources and so by utilising the by-products as additives and as ingredients to animal feed, waste is minimised and profitability is maximised.
Project Context and Objectives:
Global society needs plastics. From packaging food, healthcare products to manufacturing cars, the plastic industry has an important role in guaranteeing quality of life. Europe produced 57 million tonnes of plastics in 2013 (Plastics - the Facts, 2014/2015), 20% of global production (only China surpasses EU production with 24.8% of production). The EU plastics industry directly employs 1.4 million citizens and has a turnover of €289 billion (production & converting sectors). The main polymers used are from fossil sources (petrochemistry): polyethylene (LDPE and HDPE), polypropylene (PP), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polystyrene (PS) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Concerns about depleting fossil fuel resources, and questions about recyclability and biodegradability, have led to efforts to develop new technologies to replace conventional oil and gas based plastics with biodegradable alternatives based on raw materials derived from renewable resources. The plastics industry recognises the need to minimise impact on the environment through its products and production processes (www.plasticshallenge2020.com). However, bioplastics represent less than 1% of annual plastic production (www.european-bioplastics.org) whereas the target for EU bio-plastic production is 10% by 2020.
The worldwide production capacity for bioplastics will rise from around 1.6 million tons in 2013 to approximately 6.7 million tons by 2018; there is a predicted increase of 83% for Europe’s bioplastic production, bringing the figure 511,480 tonnes. A disturbing trend to be observed is the geographic distribution of production capacities. Europe and North America remain interesting as locations for research and development and also important as sales markets. However, establishment of new production capacities is favoured in South America and Asia. By far, the strongest growth in the bioplastic industry will be in the biobased, non-biodegradable group. Especially the so-called 'drop-in' solutions, i.e. biobased versions of bulk plastics like PE and PET, which merely differ from their conventional counterparts in terms of their renewable raw material base, are building up large capacities. Also biodegradable plastics are demonstrating impressive growth rates; their production capacity will increase by two-thirds by 2016 (in 5 years). Leading contributors to this growth will be PolyLactic Acid (PLA) and PolyHydroxyAlkanoates (PHA), each of them accounting for 298,000 tons (+60%) and 142,000 tons (+700 %) respectively.
Bio-plastics is supported by a growing interest and pressure from the public to transition from petrochemistry to green chemistry, in line with the initiative launched by the EC Environment DG: Green Public Procurement. The need for innovation is intimately related to the search for new potential renewable raw materials. The main arguments commonly associated with their use are 1) environmental: reduced use of fossil resources, reduced impact on climate change, alternative waste disposal practices into landfills (when compostable and biodegradable) and so, reduction in greenhouse emissions and 2) the structural aspects (new applications for European biomass producers). Any innovation with alternative raw materials must meet the economic and functional performance requirements for the respective applications. Plastics Europe (trade association of European plastic manufacturers) has concluded in a recent LCA review that the “benefits of the implementation of bioplastics will always depend on the choice of the feedstock and the waste management strategies” and the Bioplastics Association states that “the bioplastics industry is committed to tap new renewable resources and move away from foodplants” since it “is fully aware that the sustainable sourcing of its feedstock supply is a prerequisite for more sustainable products”.
Currently, the production of PLA and other bio-polymers is based in the use of important food sources for humans and other animals (e.g. corn, wheat, sugar beets and sugar cane) and other natural resources. With the expected rise of bioplastic production, the use of these raw materials will compete with food, forestry and/or energy production, with consequent negative effects like increasing biomass prices and/or environmental degradation. In addition to better environmental profile and appropriate technical properties needed to compete with petroplastics, the growth of bioplastics is of course linked to their price, which is obviously correlated to the raw material price. Corn, which is the main resource for producing biobased PLA, has increased 400% in price in the last 6 years. Most of its increase is due to starch and lactic acid growing demand. This trend will limit the expected booming demand for bioplastics in the future, and stimulate the development of a second generation of bio-based plastics from sources that do not compete with food production, for example, agricultural by-products or algae.
Seaweed as raw material:
Global seaweed production (almost exclusively from aquaculture) was almost 25 million tonnes in 2013; Europe was responsible for only 1.3% of that production (318,110 tonnes). Main destination markets are food, industrial specialities, fertilizers, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and feed. In Europe, seaweed feedstock is 75% devoted to biorefinery with main transformation into hydrocolloids (texturizing agents for industrial applications). In 2009, Europe imported €83 million of seaweed-based commodities but only exported half of that value (eq. 29.7 thousand tons). Harvest from wild populations is the main practice for obtaining seaweed biomass in Europe, with aquaculture representing just 13% of production. This scenario is expected to change very quickly as culture of seaweed continues to grow. Requirements of the transformation industries are changing from biomass quantity to biomass quality, traceability and sustainability. This demand is partially due to the stringent quality control policies of the general product safety EU directive (2001/95/EC). “The sustainable sourcing of feedstocks is a prerequisite for more sustainable products”. Controlled cultivation of seaweeds allows high traceability, management of biomass composition and properties, high quality and sustainability (preservation of natural populations).
Sustainability is further increased when cultivation of seaweed is carried out in Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA) systems – integrated farming of fed (fish, crustaceans) and extractive (seaweed and shellfish) species, as proposed in SEABIOPLAS. In recent decades intensive animal aquaculture has faced increasing pressure to decrease its environmental impact. So far, the evolution of artificial animal diets, in terms of feed efficiency and waste production, has been sufficient to sustain development of the industry and satisfy those calling for responsible aquaculture. However, there is an increasing demand for environmentally sustainable aquaculture; clearly including dealing with its nutrient release. Aquaculture produces phosphorus and nitrogen in large quantities that are lost to the surrounding ecosystem. Over 67-80% of nitrogen and 50% of phosphorus fed to farmed fish goes into the environment, either directly from the fish or from solid wastes. There is pressure to solve this problem from environmental NGOs, the general public and political entities. Like all algae, seaweeds are capable of using the sun’s energy to extract from the water inorganic nutrients and produce new biomass through a process similar to land plants – photosynthesis. Algae are therefore primary producers in the marine environment. This ecological function of algae is widely documented in scientific publications (Chopin et al. 1999; Fei, 2004; Buschmann, et al, 2008), and the efficiency of IMTA to deal with environmental issues associated with intensive marine animal aquaculture has been amply demonstrated on both experimental and pilot scales (e.g. Troell et al., 2003, Neori et al., 2007). The need for integrated pollution prevention and control is already referred to by the EC in its document “A strategy for the sustainable development of European Aquaculture” (CEC, 2002). Adoption of IMTA practices is in line with one of the EU2030 goals (Thematic Area Environment for European Aquaculture): to establish technology to minimize emission of biogenic matter from Aquaculture and to minimize the potential impacts of the actual emissions by means of management tools and integrated multi-trophic cultures (European Technology and Innovation Platform).
In summary, the use of seaweed provides great advantages over raw materials currently used in biomass-based plastics: Contributes to reduction of CO2 emissions, No competition with other industries for land use (food and bio-fuel production, power and heat generation, etc), Higher productivities, Reduction of nutrient input in marine coastal areas (released from fed aquaculture or agriculture runoff), No risks of reduction in biodiversity (if cultivated), No risk of potential deforestation, No freshwater consumption, No fertilisers or pesticides used (and no nutrient added when cultivated in IMTA systems).
Need for valorising production residues as by-products:
As previously mentioned, the production of seaweed in SEABIOPLAS was done in IMTA systems so, nutrient wastes from fish farms were recycled as resources for more productive, cost efficient, quality controlled and very sustainable seaweed sourcing for downstream bio-product development. The main seaweed processing industry is the phycocolloids extraction sector (alginate, carraginate, agar). It is estimated that after extraction, between 60-70% of the seaweed raw material is discarded (Yanick Lerat communication at Alg N’ Chem, 2011) and thus not valorised into other commodities. In the same way, seaweed fermentation procedures for lactic acid production will generate seaweed residues. These by-products have potential market value in the animal feed sector and can be used as ingredients or supplements/additives. There are already commercial animal feeds (salmon, shrimp and pets) that can integrate up to 15% of a customised seaweed mix (Ocean FeedTM).
In the husbandry industry, for example, the main problem is finding affordable raw materials and additives of acceptable quality (Garnett, 2010). The monopoly of the most important additives (trace elements, vitamins and enzymes) results in sudden speculation and in harmful and inadequate quality criteria, with most of the additives coming from SE Asia. Records of hazardous contaminants in those products have lead to more stringent legislations and control systems. Consequently, the possibility of supply in Europe (where there are very strict laws) as well as the chemical alternative sources are sought and appreciated. The consumer is always closer to the origin of food products and animal husbandry farming systems. Animal welfare attention and the need for less chemicals and more natural products have strong impacts on research and development of companies in the sector. Quality is increasingly sought by a growing number of people. The excessive use of additives and antibiotics is increasingly opposed due to the impact that this may have on human health (antibiotic resistance, increase in the incidence of allergy among children, etc.). Therefore the capacity of the cattle sector and fish aquaculture sector to absorb these seaweed by-products as new ingredients was tremendous.
Therefore the main aim of SEABIOPLAS was to introduce sustainably cultivated seaweeds as feedstock for biodegradable bioplastics, contributing to innovation in the bio-plastic sector and the transition from petrochemistry to greenchemistry. To achieve the global aim, the scientific and technical objectives of the SEABIOPLAS project were the following:
1. Production of different types of seaweed in a sustainable and controlled manner in order to:
a. Tune biomass qualities (carbohydrates, starch, polysaccharides) to specific plastic products’ requirements;
b. Increase the quality and traceability of the seaweed feedstock and thus of the final products;
c. Estimate production costs of the feedstock;
d. Promote the implementation of Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture systems;
e. Provide biomass for bioplastics production trials;
2. Developed fractionation methods of seaweeds for:
a. Solubilisation of sugar polymers in seaweeds. Hydrolysis of the sugar polymers into mono- and oligosaccharides that could be fermented by lactic acid-producing organisms;
b. Fractionation methods for seaweeds into their different components, such as polysaccharides for biofilms;
3. Obtained seaweed-based film precursor via alternative processes:
a. Directly from the polysaccharides extracted using green technologies (hot water and microwave-assisted extraction);
b. Fermentation to Lactic Acid and polymerization to PLA; Characterization of fermentation performance of well-known lactic acid producing microorganism;
c. Develop improved purification methods for seaweed derived lactic acid;
d. Develop novel polymerization methods for the production of PLA;
4. Tested seaweed-based polymers obtained in relevant plastic products looking at:
a. Adaptability of the new material to existent production machinery;
b. Development of new applications for lactic acid based polymers;
c. Reduction of the price of lactic acid based polymers via innovative production processes
d. Development of polymer additives that improve polymer properties (e.g. for PLA)
5. Mapped applications of seaweed by-products in animal feed allowing:
a. Improved animal welfare
b. Decreased use of non-organic ingredients, aiming at certified organic feeds
c. Management of bio-waste from seaweed-based plastic production increasing process sustainability
Tuned IMTA Cultivation of Seaweed for Plastics
Ulva sp., Gracilaria vermiculophylla and Alaria esculenta were the macroalgae chosen species for SEABIOPLAS. It was understood that the properties of seaweed biomass were significantly affected by the method in which the biomass was produced. This meant that SEABIOPLAS workers were aware that the production method would have a large impact on the suitability of the macroalgae produced for extraction of relevant polysaccharides (ulvan, agar and alginate), as well as lactic acid production (and in turn its polymer PLA).
The seaweed biomass in SEABIOPLAS was produced under the IMTA concept, meaning that the seawater used for the algae culture was nutrient-enriched, in this case, due to its integration with fish-farms: long-line system integrated with salmon in Ireland and land-based tanks integrated with seabream in Portugal. Alaria produced by CPS (Ireland) had yields of 1.5kg (dw) per linear metre/year while Ulva and Gracilaria reached 12kg (dw) and 24kg (dw) per m2/year at the ALGAplus site.
It was found that Ulva and Gracilaria were more suitable for PLA production (determined during WP2 and WP3), thus their production factors were manipulated in order to achieve customised biomass: in this case they were sugar-enriched to increase fermentation yields. This work was based on CEVA’s previous experimental results and successfully up-scaled in commercial size tanks at the land-based IMTA operation of ALGAplus.
A balance between nitrogen-enriched seawater supply, cultivation stocking densities and harvest timing was achieved with biomass sugar content reaching values four times higher than normal (e.g. 20% of starch in Ulva) and suitable for the downstream processing at CEVA, DLO-FBR and ICETA.
The main conclusions were that yes, it was possible to manipulate the production conditions at a commercial land-based IMTA system (in this case at ALGAplus) in order to obtain Ulva starch enriched biomass in approximately 3 weeks. However, care must be taken in order to start the stress trials with algae biomass containing low N and also N-depleted water. For the later, the advice was to use water from the seaweed production tanks ready to be harvested (stocking densities above 2-3kg/m2). In terms of the algae, the starting material could be obtained from tanks with high stocking densities or from the field (casted seaweed = green tides). This last option was not explored in SEABIOPLAS but could be a way of lowering the initial biomass production costs.
Turning a commercial production of high quality Ulva sold at a minimum of 13€/kg (dw) for food into a production of starch enriched Ulva must be justifiable in terms of profit. At the moment, most probably that it is not the case of lactic acid for PLA. However, economy of scales must be considered and for some niche markets claiming for sustainability, companies are willing to pay a premium price for Ulva-derived PLA (e.g. contact with the company BodyShop).
This work was useful to demonstrate that the chemical content of seaweed biomass can be effectively manipulated in a land-based cultivation system. Stress trials were designed to lower N content, but that also means that they can be sought for N enrichment purposes. This opens the door to protein-enriched biomass, with the potential of high value market prices.
Seaweed pre-treatment and hydrolysis and polysaccharide extraction
Depending on the seaweed and on the application, milling, drying or freezing was needed. Also, chemical pre-treatments helped to improve the functional properties of the extracts (e.g. alkali treatment for agar extraction).
In SEABIOPLAS the sugar polymers in pre-treated seaweeds were hydrolysed to monomeric sugars using chemical methods. In these hydrolysates, different sugars and sugar ratios were obtained depending on the seaweed species. The hydrolysates were characterised and used as feedstock for lactic acid production by fermentation.
Seaweeds are important marine sources of polysaccharides. Besides starch, red seaweeds are generally rich in agar, brown seaweeds in alginate and some green seaweeds in ulvan. These polysaccharides are water-soluble and are traditionally hot water-extracted during several hours under conventional heating. Due to the high energetic and solvent consumption in this process, the application of non-conventional technologies in the extraction of polysaccharides was tested, with relevant advantages both in energy and/or solvent use, as well as in the extraction yield. Alternative technologies included microwave- or ultrasound-assisted extraction.
Two different agars, one ulvan and one alginate resulted from the optimized protocols that were tested as bioplastic ingredients, together with the commercial versions: native agar (with the simplest extraction procedure, without pre-treatment, with more sulphate groups and weaker gelling ability), agar, ulvan and alginate, were all optimized for maximum gel strength.
Two different hydrolysates were produced at pilot scale aiming at further fermentation and PLA production: one from Gracilaria and another one from Ulva. The correspondent residues both from polysaccharide extracts and from hydrolysis were available for testing as feed supplements.
In the case of electrical heating, extraction yields were not significantly different from traditional extraction, though they seemed slightly higher in the case of more sulphated agars (more charged). Functional properties were not impaired in the tested operational range, with a higher energetic efficiency. Besides the evident energy efficiency advantage, steam (and thus boiler blowdown) savings also constituted an important environmental improvement. In the case of the ultrasound pre-treatment, yields of polysaccharides were significantly higher, but only mild treatments allowed similar functional properties (the treatment severity had to be controlled). For microwaves, huge time savings were possible. Furthermore, with an optimised design, increases in yield and functional properties were also possible. The three techniques could be used as alternatives to conventional extraction process with advantages in energy consumption, yield and/or functional properties.
It was possible to form bioplastics from the polysaccharides extracts. These bioplastics had a wide range of properties, depending on the main polysaccharide and plasticizer. Solubility continues to be a drawback, though low solubility was achieved with agar.
Production of seaweed based lactic acid
Lactic acid is a naturally occurring organic acid, which is produced by sugar fermentation by several microorganisms. Because of its versatile applications in food, pharmaceutical, textile, leather, and chemical industries, lactic acid is the most important hydroxycarboxylic acid being commercially produced at the moment using a bio-process. In SEABIOPLAS, the use of seaweeds as feedstock for the fermentative production of lactic acid was studied at Food and Biobased Products, part of WageningenUR (http://www.wageningenur.nl/en/fbr). The fermentability of the seaweed sugars depended on the strain used, as well as the pre-treatment and hydrolysis applied to the biomass.
Fermentative production of optically pure lactic acid could be achieved by several microorganisms such as lactic acid bacteria, Bacillus species, fungi and others. In preliminary small scale fermentation tests 4 types of microorganisms, i.e. 2 Lactobacillus spp., Bacillus sp., and Rhizopus sp., were tested for lactic acid production from pure monosaccharides each representing sugars that were present in seaweed hydrolysates.
The Lactobacillus strains were chosen as the most suitable to ferment most sugars present in all three species of seaweed. With media containing rhamnose, L. rhamnosus was the preferred microorganism producing lactic acid with the highest yield. B. coagulans was suitable for lactic acid production from Gracilaria hydrolysates with glucose and galactose as the main sugars.
Besides the monosaccharide composition of the seaweed substrates other properties of the substrates were of importance. Lactobacilli usually require complex nutrient media for growth. The expensive nutrients would considerably contribute to the cost of the fermentation product. The advantage however of B. coagulans compared to Lactobacilli was the lower nutrient requirement. Other seaweed hydrolysate components may act as inhibitors. These may arise due to harsh pretreatment conditions to release sugars, such as high temperature and pressure. Additionally, seaweeds were harvested from a marine environment and therefore the seaweed substrates had high salt concentrations and not all bacteria were able to grow with high salt.
The results showed that:
• Both B. coagulans and L. plantarum were able to ferment a mixture of glucose and galactose to lactic acid at high yield.
• An hydrolysate prepared from Gracilaria by high pressure under acidic conditions was fermented with lactic acid as the main product by the thermophilic bacterium B. coagulans
• The hydrolysate was supplemented with pure sugars in the same composition as present in the hydrolysate to a final concentration of 75 g/L
• Glucose and galactose in the Gracilaria hydrolysate were both fermented by B. coagulans, glucose seems to be the preferred sugar
• The lactic acid yield was 0.99 g per g of consumed sugar and the productivity was 1.58 g lactic acid per L per h
• The final calcium lactate concentration was 70.7 g/L
In order to obtain lactic acid after fermentation, firstly calcium lactate (CaL2) needed to be isolated. CaL2 has a high solubility in water (50 g.L-1 at 20°C) which makes isolation more complex for relatively low concentrations, as those obtained in the fermentations described above. In order to evaluate the best method to find the optimum recovery, the fermentation broth was subjected to a multi-step isolation/ purification procedure. All the filtrates were further concentrated for optimum CaL2 recovery.
CaL2 was extracted from fermentation of control medium by L. plantarum using 3 different approaches:
• Direct crystallization of calcium lactate (CaL) by cooling at 4°C
• Direct crystallyzation of calciumand by colling at -24°C
• Concentration of the fermentation broth by evaporation of water by distillation.
The direct cooling approaches did not yield any CaL2 due to various reasons. In the case the fermentation broth was cooled to 4°C, the concentration CaL was too low and no crystallization took place. In the case of cooling the fermentation broth to -24°C, the CaL content was too low to prevent freezing of the mixture. It was anticipated that cooling to - 24°C could result in slowly formation of ice crystals and exclusion of lactic acid due to hydrophobic interactions. The amount of CaL2 collected after concentration the fermentation broth by distillation was 6.89 g CaL2 originating from 128.71 g fermentation broth. This corresponds to a CaL2 concentration in the fermentation broth of 53.57 g/L which is in agreement with the concentration of lactic acid determined by HPLC (55.8 g/L). Commercially, CaL2 is converted into lactic acid by a sulphuric acid treatment yielding lactic acid and gypsum. After the gypsum is removed by filtration, the mixture can be used directly to make alkyd resins for coating applications.
CaL2 was also isolated from the Gracilaria fermentation broth. In theory, 17.5g of CaL2 could be the maximum amount isolated but we managed to collect only 4.52 grams (25.8%). As stated earlier, the impurities in the fermentation broth hampered the isolation of CaL2 but also the subsequent steps involved in the isolation / purification procedure led to relatively large losses. These losses, for example to the filter papers and on the sides of the filters are also accounting for the relatively low yield of CaL2. Fortunately, this CaL2 was very pure and suitable to convert into lactic acid by H2SO4 yielding lactic acid and gypsum (CaSO4).
In conclusion, it was possible to extract CaL2 from seaweed-based fermentation broth with a high purity. However, the recovery of CaL2 from the seaweed-based fermentation broth was low compared to that realised on control medium. This was mainly due to the low concentration of CaL2 in the seaweed-based broth and the presence of other impurities in the Gracilaria hydrolysate.
Polymerisation of lactic acid and applications of seaweed based polymers
Seaweeds are important marine sources of polysaccharides and one of their main industrial applications is in the hydrocolloids industry. However emerging/possible applications include production of high added-value bioactive compounds (e.g. anti-oxidant or anti-tumoral) and production of bioplastics. In this last case, the bio-based origin plastic can be formulated from biopolymers directly separated or extracted from biomass. These include seaweed polysaccharides and proteins. These extracted biopolymers can be used either as main bioplastic ingredient or as additive to traditional (bio)plastic formulations.
Lactic acid can serve as building block for many applications. Although the polymer based on lactic acid, poly(lactic acid) (PLA) are already commercialized, they lack some important properties for specific applications. The typical applications can be found in biodegradable foils for food packaging, disposable cups for soft drinks and recently thermally stable cups for hot drinks like coffee. Depending on the isomeric compositions of the monomer, either D(+) or L(+) the properties of the resulting polymers vary a lot.
Lactic acid can also serve as building block for biobased plasticisers for PLA and its potential for these applications are already largely explored. For that reason, two new applications are evaluated for seaweed based lactic acid or its dimer, which is used as monomer for high molecular weight (MW) PLA. These applications were:
• Alkyd resins for indoor coatings in collaboration with Herfst en Helder (H&H)
• High MW PLA with enhanced melt strength for foil applications. (Sleever)
Polylactic acid (PLA) is one of the most appealing bio based plastics. It is 100% renewable, compostable and combines high stiffness with high gloss and transparency. At present, its main applications are in textile fibres and in packaging (films and thermoformed products). PLA is a semi-crystalline polymer with a Tg of ~55°C and a melting point of ~160°C depending on chiral purity.
In SEABIOPLAS the goal was to evaluate the best conditions for direct lactic acid polymerisation without conversion into lactide in order to determine the best catalyst and the maximum molecular weight which could obtained. Direct conversions from lactic acid into PLA is a more economical route as compared to the current standard of ring-opening polymerization of lactides (dimer of lactic acid). In addition we aimed to replace the currently used diacids (Phthalic anhydride, maleic anhydride) and polyols with lactic acid and one polyol. The architecture of the resin, star like structure allows us to tune the viscosity of the alkyd resin which offers the potential to avoid the usage of volatile organic compounds. The number of lactic acid molecules (n) per mainly determined the viscosity and this can be controled by the proper ratio of lactic acid over pentaerythritol.
The first trials investigated the technique of alkyd resin polymerization of lactic acid. Lactic acid and tall oil fatty acid were used and the results seemed very promising with products with nearly no additional colour formation during the first stage. However, when we changed from lactic acid from Acros to lactic acid from Sigma Aldrich, strongly coloured alkyd resins were obtained. Even after a thorough analysis of the two different lactic acid suppliers, we were not successful in determining the origin of the colour. Another disadvantage of this route was the uncertainty in the concentration of lactic acid as supplied, between 85 and 92%. This made the stoichometric calculation (needed for tuning the viscosity of the alkyd resin), doubtful and reduced the reproducibility. For that reason, we shifted towards the lactide based synthesis, an industrial route to make polylactic acid.
The initial trials of alkyd resin polymerization of lactide yielded nearly colorless material. In combination with Herfst en Helder (coatings company), it was decided to make a series of four different ratios. The colour significantly changed according to the composition. Since the tall oil fatty acid (TOFA) is relatively strongly coloured, it was expected that high lactide content resulted in lower coloured resins. However, due to the extended reaction time needed to obtain a alkyd resin with an acid value lower than 10 mg KOH per gram resin, the resins were more coloured.
After discussion with Herfst en Helder, it was decided to focus more on alkyd resins with 3
Since the most commercially available PLA grades have a molecular weight of approximately 80.000 g.mol-1 we aimed to synthesize PLA with a molecular weight of 80.000 g.mol-1 for the entire molecule or molecular weight of each arm of 80.000 g.mol-1 which makes the molecular weight 320.000 g.mol-1. In other words we aimed to synthesise the high MW star shape/ branched PLA using the initiating substance was pentaerythritol.
It was clear that the molecular weights of the branched polylactic acid did not meet the theoretical calculated values. In order to see if this was due to the initiator used in this research, all materials were purified twice. Unfortunately, similar results were achieved. More research was performed into the mismatch between calculated and real molecular weight for branched polymers. The multi-functional initiator was replaced by a linear version, 1-decanol. Similar trends were observed for the linear PLA versions. From these results, it was concluded that the used catalyst, stannous octaote also acted as an initiator molecule. To prove this, a series of polymerizations were performed on the same scale in which the initiator concentration was lowered. The effective ratio Mw/[cat] and Mw/([M]/[I]) were determined.
It was clear that high molecular weight could be achieved by only the catalyst. The reaction rate was much higher than for the other polymerizations performed and after 5 minutes, the viscosity becomes too high to stir the reaction mixture. Due to the limited agitation during polymerization, the conversion of lactide was not completed which reduced the information output. However, it was clear that lowering the catalyst concentration led to higher molecular weight materials. This insight allows us to predict the molecular weight of linear PLA, initiated from 1-decanol which ranged between 107,500 and 137,400 g.mol-1
In conclusion, we ascertained that:
• Lactic acid is a good monomer for alkyd resin synthesis.
• It was possible to tune the viscosity of the alkyd resins to make them suitable for indoor applications.
• It was not possible make branched PLA with a sufficiently high molecular weight.
• It was not possible to make linear PLA with a sufficiently high molecular weight.
• The catalyst also acted as initiator. This made the calculation to predict the molecular weight not suitable.
• It was finally possible, with an adapted calculation to make linear PLA with a sufficiently high molecular weight.
Uses for by-products
Seaweed by-products obtained directly from cultivation, or as residues resulting from other processes (described above), were an excellent source of nutrients and bioactive substances with different applications in fish nutrition. CIIMAR carried out several fish trials, testing the effects of dietary seaweed (and their extracts) supplementation in marine fish. We observed that seaweed and/or their extracts had a positive effect on the immune and antioxidant responses in two marine species, European seabass (Dicentrarchus labrax) and gilthead seabream (Sparus aurata). Such results indicated that seaweed supplementation promoted an increased resistance to infectious diseases and thus improved fish welfare.
Furthermore, our fish trials showed that seaweed supplementation improved feed utilisation efficiency and growth rates in fish. A plausible reason for such an improvement may lie in its effect on metabolic fuel utilisation. The aerobic scope is an indicator of energy use for growth. Metabolic fuel utilisation can be modulated by the enhancement of the respiratory capacity (i.e. improve oxygen uptake and utilisation). So, we carried out an additional study on respirometry, in which we measured the oxygen consumption of individual fish, which generated data necessary to calculate the aerobic scope of fish. Organisms were individually placed within an intermittent flow-through respirometry set-up using Loligo Systems equipment. Oxygen consumption rates (OCRs) of fish were determined as an estimate of routine metabolic rates.
More specifically, five trials in total were carried out. The first trial studied the effect of dietary Gracilaria and Ulva supplementation on growth performance and biochemical parameters in European Seabass (Dicentrarchus labrax). Five diets were fed to D. labrax: control (a commercial diet), Gracilaria spp. at 2.5% and 7.5%, and Ulva spp. at 2.5% and 7.5%. The highest weight gain and daily growth occurred in the fish fed the Ulva supplemented diet (7.5%). Fish innate immune status was assessed in plasma. Three parameters were tested: peroxidase, lysozyme and alternative complement pathway (ACH50). Peroxidase levels were significantly higher in the control fish compared to the Gracilaria 2.5% fed fish. Oxidative stress and antioxidant activity were studied in the liver. Lipid peroxidation levels (LPO) were analysed, as well as Total Glutathione (GT), Glutathione s-transferase (GST), Reduced (GR) and oxidized (GSSG) Glutathiones, Glutathione peroxidase (Gpx), catalase (CAT) and cholinesterases (ChE). Significantly lower levels of GPx and ChE were found in the control fish compared to those fed with the Ulva (7.5%) diet.
The second trial investigated effects of dietary Gracilaria supplementation on aerobic scope in European seabass (Dicentrarchus labrax). Two diets were chosen: control (commercial diet) and Gracilaria supplemented at 7.5%. The same parameters were measured as from trial 1. Significant differences were found between the treatments for ACH50, GST, ChE and LPO. Also, the routine metabolic rate (RMR) study also showed that fish sustained significantly higher metabolic levels in the groups fed supplemented Gracilaria (7.5%).
Trial 3 studied the effects of Gracilaria by-products as fish-feed ingredients on growth performance and flesh quality of European seabass (Dicentrarchus labrax). The three experimental diets consisted in a non-supplemented commercial diet (CTRL) and two seaweed diets, each supplemented with 0.5% of ethanol extracts of Gracilaria spp. (GE), and 4.5% of the by-product of the extraction (GR). Highest growth rate was found in the fish fed with the 0.5% extracts of Gracilaria. However, no pH or colour difference were noted.
Trial 4 examined the effects of dietary Gracilaria and Alaria supplementation on growth performance, biochemical parameters and aerobic scope in meagre (Argyrosomus regius). A diet containing recommended levels of protein (45 % dry matter, DM) and lipid (18 %DM) for this species was used as a control. The same basal diet was supplemented with Gracilaria spp. 7.5% and Alaria 7.5% (treatment diets). Growth was highest for the fish fed with the Alaria supplemented diet. However, the food conversion ratio was best in the fish fed with the Gracilaria supplemented diet. Innate immune parameters such as peroxidase and lysozyme were analysed to establish any association between seaweeds and their immunostimulant properties. Both treated fish, fed on the seaweed diets had significantly higher lysozyme values than those fed on the control diet. Oxygen consumption was also significantly in the treatment fish. In addition the maximum metabolic rate was significantly higher in the fish fed the Alaria diet when compared to the control.
Trial 5 investigated on gilthead seabream (Sparus aurata) fed diets supplemented with seaweed residues and subsequently subjected to hypoxia/ normoxia. The treatment diets were supplemented with 5% seaweed, Gracilaria spp. and Ulva spp., supplied by the project partner ICETA. Both seaweeds were used for the aqueous extraction of agar and ulvanus, and the leftover residues from the extractions were used as the fish feed additives. At the end of the 30 day trial, fish were subjected to a 24hs hypoxia (15% air saturation), a common stressor during aquaculture practices, followed by a 72 hr recovery period. After 24 hr hypoxia, mortality was significantly lower in the seaweed treated groups than the (control) non-supplemented group. Fish fed Gracilaria spp., Ulva spp. and control had 39%, 46% and 71% mortality rates, respectively. At 72h post-hypoxia, all fish fed with control diet had died. Plasma haemoglobin content of the 24h post-hypoxic animals fed diets supplemented with Gracilaria spp., Ulva spp. residues were higher than the control fish. At 72h post-hypoxia, fish fed with Gracilaria spp. had a similar haemoglobin content of those animals kept constantly in normoxia. There was an increase of hematopoietic activity in response to the seaweed fed fish, especially in the group fed diets supplemented with Gracilaria spp. residues. The increase of haemoglobin led to an increase in the "oxygen carrier capacity" of the fish, which conferred an increase in the animal's resistance to hypoxic conditions, thus increased the survival rate during the hypoxia challenge. There was also a significant effect on glucose levels in the plasma of fish fed with supplemented seaweed.
Overall we can conclude that seaweed supplemented diets (either whole or extracts of Gracilaria spp., Ulva spp. and Alaria spp.) had a positive effect on the welfare of the fish; meagre (Argyrosomus regius), gilthead seabream (Sparus aurata) and European seabass (Dicentrarchus labrax). The seaweeds diets were successful because of their reported characteristics as immunostimulants, antioxidants and they had suitably balanced nutritional profile.
The objective of the study was to test the mycotoxin binding properties of seaweeds in feed for dairy cattle. In specific terms, the action of Ulva lactuca as an aflatoxin binder and as a support for the animal’s health and welfare was tested. AFLATOXIN B1 is produced from Aspergillus flavus and can be found in the cereals used as livestock feed. If it is eaten by the animals it is converted into AFLATOXIN M1 (carcinogenic and mutagenic) and secreted together with milk. As milk is an integral part of the agri-food chain, the monitoring of M1 levels is extremely important.
Three different types of seaweeds were available for the trial: Gracilaria, Alaria and Ulva. Ulva was chosen for its nutritional properties, the quantity necessary for the trial was available and the preliminary (microbial and metal) analyses carried out by the supplier (AlgaPlus) reported very good results. However two key issues arose:
- In the year 2015 the level of aflatoxin M1 was low due to climatic factors and effective preventative measures
- It was difficult for Agrolabo to find a breeding farm for the trial: health authorities and breeders carefully monitor mycotoxin levels and as soon as problems occur, countermeasures are taken.
The breeding farm chosen for the trial (Azienda Agricola Mantegazza) was made up of 32 lactating cows (Friesian). Dairy cows that were not affected by serious and debilitating pathologies due to infections and/or medical or surgical treatments were chosen for the trial. Ulva was administered for 7 weeks (from 24th February to 14th April 2015). At the beginning of the administration palatability checks were performed. As Ulva flour turned out to be not very palatable, the expected initial dosage of 50 g head/day was decreased to 25 g head/day. After 4 weeks it was increased to 32 g head/day, which was the maximum ingestible quantity. Ulva flour was added to the animal’s diet (cereals, forage and Agrolabo’s complementary feed) which was maintained for the entire duration of the trial.
The values monitored before, during and at the end of the trial were: aflatoxin M1 in milk and milk quality parameters (fat, protein, casein, lactose, somatic cells and bacterial count). According to the trial protocol, values were registered at TIME 0 (before the beginning of the trial), every 2 weeks during the trial and 2 weeks after the end of the administration. Values registered at TIME 0 have been compared with those obtained during the different sampling stages in the trial. It was not possible to create a control group because of the breeding (open housing) and feeding (Unifeed) type. The same herd was used as a control and the comparison was made before and after the Ulva administration.
After one-month of administration a decrease of M1 in milk from 17 ppt to 6 ppt was registered. By two weeks post Ulva administration, M1 stabilised at approximately 10 ppt. No significant variations in milk quality were registered. However, Ulva flour had a positive effect on the cows’ general well-being. The breeder had registered an absence of infective issues compared to the previous year. The analyses on feed carried out before the beginning of the trial showed the absence of aflatoxins B1, B2, G1 and G2, but the presence of Deoxynivalenol (DON) and ZERALENONE.
According to the scientific literature, mycotoxins are never found in isolation and when they are present together, they exert synergistic interactions. Moreover, it is known that seaweeds bind better with non-soluble mycotoxins, such as DON and ZERALENONE. This led us to think that Ulva might help to increase the animal’s immune system which is directly affected by the presence of ZERALENONE and DON. In light of the above considerations, further studies on the interaction between ZERALENONE, DON and Ulva would be of interest.
Another very interesting research area might be the use of seaweeds as an adjuvant for environmental hygiene. Seaweeds might be used to improve hygienic conditions of cattle housing and assist in the decrease of humidity rate, ammonia levels and pathogenic bacterial count. The idea is to start with environmental health and move again to the animal’s health through the monitoring of milk quality and quantity parameters.
The production of poly-lactic acid (PLA) and other biopolymers is currently based on resources like corn, wheat, sugar beet and sugar cane. There is an increasing concern that the use of these land-grown raw materials will compete with food, feed or energy production, with related increasing raw material costs and negative environmental effects. Given the growing interest in alternative sustainable resources, SEABIOPLAS studied the potential of seaweed as a raw material. The SEABIOPLAS project investigated the possibility of a viable supply chain from seaweed grown in sea combined with fish cultivation (Integrated Multitrophic Aquaculture (IMTA) conditions) to a range of bioplastics applications.
Like terrestrial plants, seaweed absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, reducing atmospheric CO2 levels. Little local waste is expected during production of seaweeds because all components of the seaweed can be used in a biorefinery approach so can have multiple usages. It is expected that seaweed in bioplastic applications will have additional advantages over traditional feedstocks like sugarcane and maize because:
• Their growth rate as well as the productivity per land surface area is higher: when grown on land in ponds, seaweed absorbs more carbon per land area, reducing land demand. When grown in the sea, they only demand on land is for infrastructure for landing and processing.
• The risk of causing indirect Land Use Change is expected to be very limited.
• Their freshwater demands are expected to be much lower.
• They absorb nitrogen and phosphorus very efficiently from their aqueous environment. When the nitrogen containing fractions of the seaweed are used to replace fertilizer or animal feed, marine eutrophication can be reduced.
• No phosphorus fertilizer is needed and low electricity inputs are expected, mineral resource demands may be limited.
• No nitrogen fertilizer and little growing operations are needed, their fossil resource demand may also be limited.
A complete life cycle assessment was required to evaluate these benefits and the possible negative environmental impacts derived from the production of the raw materials (in our case, seaweeds from IMTA versus traditionally used crops). At the same time, the supply chain was developed by linking experimental set-ups for each production step. Some energy and resource usages needed to be estimated in order to discover the environmental feasibility of this innovative scenario. Industrial scale data or plant designs were still lacking. As part of the experimental nature of the developments, mass balances were optimized on technical feasibility with limited economic and environmental information, and cascading approaches were considered, of which some are being piloted.
In order to enable the production of bioplastics from seaweed, several innovations have been developed in different steps in the supply chain. Two supply chains providing two selected end products were developed, each based on one seaweed species:
• (Poly)lactic acid from Ulva lactuca
• Polysaccharide films from Gracilaria vermiculophylla
These end products could be used for applications in materials, packaging, coating, etc. The different innovations developed in several steps are described below:
• Commercial seaweed production is normally done in mono-culture systems. In SEABIOPLAS, species of Ulva and Gracilaria were commercially grown in an IMTA system, where nutrient enriched water (nitrate, CO2 and some ammonia) from a seabream farm, feeds the seaweed cultures mimicking the natural ecosystem processes thus avoiding the addition of artificial fertilizers but still reaching high biomass yields. Abiotic production factors (e.g. light, nutrients) were manipulated in order to increase yields but also the chemical composition of seaweeds. In SEABIOPLAS the protocol for increasing starch content in Ulva lactuca biomass (up to 25% DW) was determined and confirmed at commercial scale in the IMTA systems (20,000 litre tanks).
• Seaweeds were pretreated to yield fermentable mono- and oligo saccharides with good yields, using milder conditions (lower T, neutral pH) compared to conventional hydrolysis of lignocellulosic biomass. In the project, traditional methods were used to prepare the hydrolysates from the green seaweed U. lactuca. Hydrolysis of biomass under acidic condition with sulfuric acid, allows to obtain hydrolysates with high glucose and rhamnose content. A more innovative enzymatic step, was also performed to increase the yield of sugar monomers in the hydrolysates and conditions were optimized for different seaweed species.
• Seaweeds can be pretreated under various conditions for extracting polysaccharides. Traditional-water extraction of polysaccharides is a time consuming process, requires high solvent and energy consumption and generates large amounts of waste. Non-conventional methods have been applied that are more environmentally friendly have a lower energy requirement. Examples are microwave, ultrasounds and electric heating. The extracted polysaccharides could be applied in films formulation for e.g. packaging or agricultural applications.
• The characterization of the fermentation of seaweed-derivatives by lactic-acid producing microorganisms is very novel, since most studies so far are focusing on lignocellulosic biomass. Due to the special sugar composition of the seaweeds, several organisms were tested for efficient sugar utilization and lactic acid production. The high salt content in the hydrolysates needed to be addressed, since it was an inhibitory factor for current LA-producing organisms.
• The purification of LA from seaweed-based fermentation broth presented challenges with respect to purification from other media. This was due to the relatively high salt content in the seaweed hydrolysates. During the project, lactic acid was successfully purified from seaweed fermentations.
• Lactic acid could be used as a building block in bioplastics with applications in foils, cold drink glass and coatings. In this project, successful trials with the development of lactic acid based alkyd resins, the main component for coatings was executed. The initial trials demonstrated that the purity of the lactic acid was of utmost importance since impurities strongly affected colour. The research of polylactic acid with enhanced melt strength was unfortunately less successful. However, it was proved that the lactide, a dimer of lactic acid which is commercially used to make PLA with high molecular weight, could be obtained after purification of lactic acid from the fermentation broth.
The purpose of the Environmental Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) study was to assess the sustainability performance of the two chosen experimental supply chains: lactic acid from Ulva lactuca and polysaccharide films from Gracilaria vermiculophylla. This was done by identifying environmental hotspots as areas for improvement, by addressing potential environmental claims, and making preliminary comparisons with conventional reference materials. Climate change, land use, terrestrial acidification, freshwater eutrophication, water scarcity, biodiversity, marine eutrophication, resource depletion and waste were addressed as impact categories.
The current study was a first analysis of the environmental performance of seaweed in polymer applications. Being a high level screening, it has provided an overview of the supply chains and their environmental hotspots and points out methodological issues. Improvement opportunities relevant for scaling up have been identified. Large uncertainties were identified due to limited data availability and the necessity of assumptions.
The study identified one major hotspot for both supply chains: electricity consumption. For lactic acid production, most of the environmental impact was due to electricity consumption during U. lactuca cultivation. For polysaccharide films production, most of the environmental impact was due to electricity consumption during the extraction of polysaccharides from the dried G. vermiculophylla. For lactic acid, the enzymes used in the hydrolysis were a secondary hotspot. The global warming potential, terrestrial acidification and freshwater eutrophication were quantified with a reasonable reliability and motivated that electricity use and enzymes as the primary and secondary hotspots.
Agricultural land occupation and water scarcity impacts were less reliable because these indicators are very sensitive to the uncertain effect of the substitution of the soy meal by seaweed residues. It can be concluded electricity use dominated for these indicators as well. The land required for growing seaweed was limited, while the water required in the entire supply chain was substantial, for both end products.
The environmental impact categories addressed in the paragraphs above can be aggregated to an indicator for ecosystem damage with reasonable reliability, considering the uncertainty of soy meal substitution. The biodiversity effects due to sea use cannot be quantified but should be considered additionally in a systematic assessment.
Less strong conclusions could be derived for the remainder of the environmental indicators, due to lack of specific data. Regarding abiotic depletion, the avoided demands of phosphorus and fossil fuels for fertilizer production were not significant compared to the mineral resource depletion due to ore extractions for infrastructure and the fossil fuels needed for the hotspots of electricity consumption. Waste and wastewater was produced in significant amounts in both supply chains, but the environmental impact of further waste (water) processing could not be quantified reliably.
The results of the study demonstrated clear opportunities for improvement. The much lower environmental impacts of conventional renewable bioplastics support this. The electricity usages are the most important areas of improvement. These can be addressed by optimizing the energy usage as well as the material efficiency of upstream steps, and by greening the electricity sourced. The impact of enzymes for U. lactuca hydrolysis and/or their use should be reduced. For polysaccharides, the option of alkaline pretreatment combined with microwave extraction can reduce the electricity consumption beyond the modelled scenarios.
This LCA has demonstrated that a view on the complete supply chain can identify both major and minor improvement opportunities and issues that require attention. Continuing this approach, and broadening it to assessing all waste flows, including the end of life of the main product, will enable the design of biopolymers with clear life cycle environmental benefits compared to alternatives. In addition, improvements in energy and material efficiency during scale-up could significantly reduce the environmental impact of the production of both lactic acid production and polysaccharide films from seaweed.
On the economic side, a detailed study of biosourced and/or biodegradable bioplastics was conducted on European and on a worldwide basis using public available information (see Deliverable 7.2). It included:
• Technical descriptions of polymers on the market
• Cost, production volumes and main producers
• Strategic statements of main producers and experts on the field
• Potential of substitution for every bioplastic category compared to petroleum based polymers.
• Markets prices collected by polymer category in order to feed the viability study
The results have shown that:
• For PLA route :
o The substitution potential to petroleum based polymers is 12.6 MT/year on the worldwide market and 2.7 MT on the EU market. The actual production is 0.2 MT worldwide, increasing 20 to 30%/year.
o Highest substitution potential is for PE-HD, PP, PET and some PS.
o Market price for PLA ranges from 1.9 to 3 $ USD/kg. Lowest prices are for large volumes. It can go up to 4 $USD/kg in niche markets
o Main producers are Natureworks, PURAC and Galactic.
o Main hurdles are recycling and domestic composting.
• For Starch based polymers :
o The substitution potential to petroleum polymers is 12 MT/y and 2.5 MT/y respectively for worldwide and EU markets. The actual production is 0.2 kT/y worldwide.
o Highest substitution potential is for PE-LD/HD, PP, PS and some PUR.
o Market prices for starch based polymers are in the range of 2 to 5 $USD/kg depending on the complexity of the formulation.
o Main producers are Novamont, Biotec, Rodenburg
o Main hurdles for algae to enter this segment are low cost starch sources from terrestrial plants
• For cellulosic based polymers :
o the substitution potential to petroleum based polymers is 12.6 MT/year on the worldwide market and 2.7 MT on EU market. The actual production is >5 MT worldwide.
o Highest substitution potential is for PP, PVC, PET and some PS.
o Market price for cellulose based polymers ranges from 2 to 7 $ USD/kg, depending on product type (ether, esters, fibres...)
o This is a mature market renewed by the interest in biosourced polymers. Main producers are Lenzing, Birla, Celanese, Eastman...
o Main hurdles for algae to enter this segment are low cost cellulose from agricultural wastes.
Summary of results and exploitation
Research centres have transferred the results of their research work to SMEs, who are the owners of the results, on a joint ownership basis. SMEs will be the owners of any potential patentable applications for each of the commercial technologies developed during Seabioplas. In other words, the four SMEs will own an equal share of any potential patents. Currently the exploitable results and their Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) are as follows:
• Optimised seaweed production methods to increase sugar levels (TRL7).
• Tank production methodologies for macroalgae (TRL7).
• Novel methods for seaweed fractionation and extraction of ingredients for bioplastics (TRL7).
• Novel methods for extracting and polymerising lactic acid from seaweed (TRL7).
• Seaweed-based packaging formulation (TRL4).
• Seaweed-based sleeve product (TRL6).
• Seaweed-based stretchable film product (TRL6).
• Seaweed-based binders for coatings (TRL6).
• Seaweed-based plastic additives – plasticisers (TRL6).
• Ingredients for animal feed from seaweed by-products (TRL7).
• Commercial technologies for the production of bio-plastics (TRL6).
• Technologies for the solubilisation of sugars in seaweeds to be used as fermentation feedstock for production of lactic acid (TRL7).
Impact on SMEs/Industry
In this project there were four types of SMEs; those producing the bio-plastic precursors and final products, the primary seaweed producers and the ones processing the seaweed by-products (in this case, manufacturers of animal feed based in the seaweed residues). There was a clear need in the European plastic sector for innovation and increased production of biomass-based biodegradable-plastics, in order to reach the 2020 target of 10% of plastics placed in the market to be bioplastics. Most of the 50,000 plastic manufacturing and converting companies in Europe were unaware of the potential of seaweed as a raw material for bio-plastics. The SEABIOPLAS results will help to increase the levels of sustainable production of bioplastics, and contribute to that 10% target. Similarly, the primary producers and processors were unaware of this alternative use of seaweed and a source of seaweed residues, respectively. The main processing industry for seaweed is the hydrocolloids extraction sector (alginate, carraginate, agar) and it is estimated that between 60-70% of the raw material is discarded. Effective dissemination has reached many companies involved in the plastic industry and their customers (eg the Body Shop) and the European seaweed industry who harvest and process about >300 000 tonnes of seaweed annually. The dissemination of the project results enabled the diffusion of information about culture and processing methods, costs and environmental issues.
SMEs within the project gained potentially new patentable methods and new management tools. In terms of products, SEABIOPLAS provided the bio-plastic processors, end-users and the seaweed producers in the project with innovative seaweed-based products and to the agro-food SME involved with a new natural and sustainable feed component from seaweed by-products. All these bio-based product end-users were represented in the project and have directly benefited from the technologies/product development and transfer of knowledge within the lifetime of the project. In doing so, SEABIOPLAS developed new knowledge and products that addressed common technological problems for SMEs of those sectors throughout Europe (a search for natural, sustainable and high quality raw materials and reduction of organic waste). The results provided benefits to the SMEs by improving their productivity and efficiency and hence their competitiveness by having new patentable lactic-acid fermentation and polymerization methods based in a new sustainable raw material, instead of the traditional grain and beet. Besides using them for bio-plastics, they can potentially also focus on bioenergy customers. The core group of SMEs also increased their knowhow in the development of innovative products with a new raw material and thus acquiring a competitive advantage in the biodegradable plastics sector. The companies will benefit from new products, suppliers and customers in different segments of the plastics industry: SLEEVER (bio-plastic shrinkable films and sleeves – e.g. niche products like organic food packed in compostable or edible packaging) and H&H (plasticizers and bio-coatings – e.g. new paint formulations for indoor application. The SMEs have the industrial capabilities to integrate the new seaweed-based polymers in their production lines and manufacture the plastic products outlined for a large range of applications.
The seaweed producers benefited from contact with the bioplastic sector; both ALGAPLUS and CPS expect to get new products, customers and thus open new markets possibilities. Moreover, by acquiring optimized cultivation technologies to obtain customised biomass, they are able to focus on high quality demanding markets that are normally willing to pay more than the traditional polysaccharide customers. ALGAPLUS, that focus its business in IMTA systems, thinks SEABIOPLAS will foster the implementation of seaweed cultivation in IMTA systems and thus contribute to increasing seaweed aquaculture in Europe.
Seaweed by-product processors need sustainable and eco-friendly products. AGRO develops, validates and produces optimised animal feeds for the agro-industry worldwide; SEABIOPLAS offered them a unique opportunity to develop a new business area using the seaweed residues as a natural source for replacement of synthetic molecules in organic livestock and fish feed.
It was difficult to discuss in detail the economics of developing the new products, because of the many factors that affect the costs and the variation in circumstances and costs between the different plastics companies involved in manufacturing shrinkable sleeves, films, plasticizers and coatings. Examples of these factors include: energy prices, energy taxes & renewable energy policy, land prices, labour costs, machineries and material costs. One of the key factors to consider is the cost of the new raw material that according to SLEEVER, cannot go over €2.40 per Kg since the production price of film alone is around 4-5€/Kg and in case of special formulations may reach 10€/kg. For the coatings productions (H&H), if the new raw material equals the price of the current used chemical based materials, a gross margin of €20 to 25 per litre is expected. Also, if the new seaweed-based coating meets the current quality standards, the product can sell at €70-80 per liter. Moreover, considering the reduced health and safety risks for the paint handlers using the new paint, a 10% increase on the sales price is reasonable. The seaweed production cost will vary according to the species, geographical location and site conditions. Gracilaria biomass price in the world markets has kept the same price in the last decade, around €0.90 per Kg. The values for Alaria and Ulva are not known yet since the commercial cultivation of these species is in its early stages; foreseen values for sale are close to €1 per Kg for Ulva and €2 per Kg for Alaria esculenta. The cultivation in IMTA systems eliminates the necessity for inorganic nutrient additions and CO2 to the cultures, thus reducing the overall cost of production. To all the process, from the seaweed biomass production to the waste management practices, an economy of scale needs to be taken into consideration. After discussions between the SMEs involved in the project and validation by the RTDs, the consortium has defined economic targets.
Capital costs: were a key issue if SMEs were to become commercially competitive without financial support. The SMEs (and Sleever) involved in SEABIOPLAS are well established companies and should not require external funding to develop the new products. All effort was made during the project to use and optimise their existent methodologies. The target price for the whole product development must stay around current values, however can be offset by the increasing demand for bioplastics, so the product value can be higher (as previously mentioned for the coatings case) and balance the production processes costs. In the worst-case scenario, for example, H&H could expect a development cost for the new product of €100k-150k. Also, the positive monetary balance gained by valorising the seaweed by-products during the bio-polymer manufacturing processes organic waste will help to reduce payback. In order for the seaweed producers to achieve a significant production level for the demand of the bio-polymer market, new investment in cultivation and drying/milling equipment would be mandatory. Also regarding cultivation areas, new concessions/licensed areas would be necessary. CPS, estimated an initial investment of €150,000 to produce 200 km of seeded string after 3 years. In terms of the SME using the new seaweed-based ingredient (AGRO), their production scale would be able to absorb this new prodct with no need of investment expected.
Operating Costs: will be reduced by fitting the new seaweed-based materials in the existent process lines of the SMEs and by the correct training methodologies of the technicians. The innovative and optimised methods for obtaining the seaweed-based polymers (e.g. polymerization and polysaccharide extractions) should reduce the energy requirements of the manufacturing chain. The fact that the seaweed biomass will be produced in a customised way to the requirements of the polymer manufacturers, should mean increased yields in production and higher quality thus making the whole production line more efficient.
Income Streams: the client base for the core SMEs (plastic sector), is already very broad, thus their seaweed-based products are expected to reach several European industries (e.g food packaging, construction, cosmetics). Specific marketing strategies will be applied to the new seaweed-based products. Moreover, seaweed biomass is ubiquitous therefore can be sourced in most coastal countries around the world.
To overcome the main economical limitations of raw material supply, the classical polymer manufacturing and the effective disposal of the organic residues, the consortium has dedicated its technical efforts to:
• Optimising seaweed production in order to reduce costs and maintain high productivities and biomass quality;
• Implementing new technologies to optimise and reduce costs of the seaweed transformation process;
• Adapting the new seaweed-based polymers to the current machineries used at the SME end-user sites;
• Optimising the storage and disposal mechanisms of the seaweed residues for these to reach processors (animal feed manufacturers) in a good state;
It is envisaged that the application of the new developed technologies and seaweed-based polymers will be implemented immediately following a further short period of testing by the SMEs in the plastic sector (SLEEVER and H&H), as well as the optimised seaweed production methodologies by the seaweed SME producers (ALGAPLUS, CPS). The new seaweed-based feed products developed by AGRO and CIIMAR (with benefit also for ALGAPLUS), due to the stringent rules of the feed industry should need extra time for certification processes. An appropriate market analysis was carried out during SEABIOPLAS which identified appropriate distribution channels.
Estimated time to market: The consumer dialog by the SME’s has already started and we envisage that the SEABIOPLAS products will be introduced progressively, starting within 18-24 months following the completion of the project. The degree and rate of expansion will depend on the economies of scale in the seaweed sources, the seaweed-based plastics manufacturing and in the seaweed-based feeds production. Pricing policies (subsidies available etc) and the consumer acceptance will also be main conditioning factors. Even considering a good market acceptance, seaweed production by ALGAPLUS or CPS would require approximately 18-24 months from the end of the project to achieve a significant production scale-up that will be required for the bio-plastics industry. As previously described, since the goal in SEABIOPLAS was to adapt and /or improve existent technologies and products in the manufacturing processes, the time to market should be relatively fast. Prototypes have been developed and now will require optimization of properties and scale-up.
Market size: The trend for the European plastics industry is that “the production of bioplastics will increase at an expected rate of 25% per year accompanied by an increasing demand of the consumers for sustainable bio-based and biodegradable plastics.” Moreover, in some countries like the Netherlands (H&H), governmental institutions are promoting the use of sustainable and renewable products, like coatings. Thus there is room for a fast implementation and growth of the applications of the new seaweed-based products. The consortium believes that the use of the new raw material for the production of bio-polymers as well as the use of seaweed residues for feeds may increase steadily at a rate of 5 % per annum due to the cost benefits and reduced environmental impact. The increase in the market of the new products will be controlled by (a) the rate of the products/technology validation, (b) the uptake of the seaweed-based products by customers (c) the cost of the SEABIOPLAS solution (affected by the economies of scale).
Market Share: According to Bioplastics Magazine (May edition 2015) the expected market share for bio-based polymers will triple from 5.1 million tonnes in 2013 to 17 million tonnes in 2020 (4% share). The SMEs manufacturing the bio-plastic products based on seaweed-based polymers expect to increase their market shares from 10 to 40% based upon customers’ choices and also governmental supports for bio-based products.
Contribution to the implementation of EU policies
The SEABIOPLAS project structure fitted in 3 of the 7 Strategic Thematic Areas identified in the 6th EAP:
• Prevention and recycling of waste – EC COM (2005) 666
• Sustainable use of natural resources - EC COM (2005) 670
• Protection and Conservation of the Marine Environment – EC COM (2005) 504
That way, SEABIOPLAS participated in the implementation of several EU policies and regulations related to:
• Improvement of environmental performance of European SMEs from traditional European industries
• Reducing the use of non biodegradable plastic and managing wastes:
• Improvement of quality and traceability of processes and products
• Contribution of SMEs to sustainable development of the aquaculture, plastics and animal nutrition industries
• Encouraging SMEs to increase their R&D activities
Improvement of environmental performance of European SMEs from traditional European industries: SEABIOPLAS used sustainable raw materials and methodologies to develop sustainable products. The project complemented the Eco-management and audit scheme (EMAS) directive (regulation 1836/93/EEC), which deals with the participation of companies that seek to reward and promote better environmental performances of industrial activities. The SEABIOPLAS approach also complemented the REACH directive (1907/2006/E) since it promotes the reduction of hazardous chemicals during the manufacture of bio-polymers through the use of eco-friendly methodologies. From the production of the raw material in a sustainable IMTA system (seaweed), through the application of green methodologies for bio-polymer development until the valorisation of the seaweed by-products generated (used in animal feeds), SEABIOPLAS fitted perfectly in the Integrated Product Policy (EC 2003-302). The products generated should be able to apply for Eco-label certifications. The participation of industrial companies in the development of new bio-sustainable and bio-degradable products (bio-plastics and organic feeds) and technologies (seaweed production in IMTA systems and sustainable processing of the seaweed biomass) as well as the management/valorisation of the organic seaweed residues through this project is thus a very good way to introduce such considerations to the participating end-users.
Reducing the use of non biodegradable plastic and managing wastes: SEABIOPLAS will contribute to the increased production of biodegradable bioplastics in detriment on non-biodegradable materials and petro-chemical derived plastics. One of the main sectors targeted by the SEABIOPLAS bio-plastic end-users is the packaging sector, including for food products; in using natural, biodegradable and sometimes edible the food directive (2002/72/EC) and Commission Regulation No. 10/2011 -14th January 2011, that regulates the use of plastic materials intended to come into contact with food, are also in the scope of the project. SEABIOPLAS developed bio-based products aimed at all waste collection and recovery systems: biodegradable and compostable and at the same time will provide a way for that industry to dispose/sell their seaweed residues to be valorised (thus by-products) by the livestock feed industry (definition of by-product according to EC COM 2007/59). Also, in using cleaner manufacturing methods to develop the bio-polymers it will prevent the generation of hazardous waste. According to the Prevention and Recycling of Waste (COM (2011) 13- 19th January 2011), SEABIOPLAS is in accordance with several EU and National regulations related to waste management, within the Waste Management Framework directive (2008/98/EC):
Packaging and packaging wastes: Several products of SEABIOPLAS complement the Directive 94/62/EC amended in 2005/20/EC intended to increase the recovery/recycling of packaging materials. In addition, Directive 1999/31/EC on the landfill of waste which includes the objective that all waste be treated or sorted before landfilling. The main objective of the Incineration Directive 2000/76/EC is to prevent or reduce, as far as possible, air, water and soil pollution caused by the incineration or co-incineration of waste, as well as the resulting risk to human health. SEABIOPLAS participates to the implementation of these directives reducing the amount of waste to be disposed in landfills and incineration by: Preventing the amount and type of waste generated through efficient manufacturing methodologies; Introducing new biodegradable bio-plastic products that can be compostable; Valorising the by-products generated during plastic production (seaweed residues) for a complementary industry (animal feed).
Contribution of SMEs to sustainable development of the aquaculture plastics and animal nutrition industries: SEABIOPLAS fully complies with the objective of Small Clean and Competitive SMEs, thus with European objectives to enhance participation of SMEs to innovation programs that lead them to a sustainable, efficient and competitive development (Comunication 2008/397) as for example following the Ecodesign directive (2005/32/EC, 2009/125/EC). In promoting the aquaculture of seaweeds in IMTA systems and use of seaweed residues for fish feed, SEABIOPLAS is in accordance with the goals for a more sustainable aquaculture in 2020 laid out by the European Aquaculture Technology and Innovation Platform: improve feeding technology and composition in order to minimize biogenic emissions and use IMTA as a technology to mitigate the biogenic effects of intensive fish or shellfish farms. SEABIOPLAS also complies with the rules determined in the EC regulation 710/2009. In terms of the valorisation of the seaweed by-products originated from plastic production, AGRO, the SME responsible for this task is well aware of the main regulations in place for the feed market (EC767/2009), hygiene (EC183/2005) and additives (EC1831/2003) as well as the mandatory rules from the European Safe Food Authority (EC178/2002).
Community societal objectives
Technologies linked to environmentally sustainable products create added value in Europe and offer opportunities to create jobs:
• SEABIOPLAS solution will allow plastics companies to use cost-effective and reliable alternative raw material (seaweed) to make bio-plastic. They will increase their profitability and their competitiveness, which will have positive influence on employment (preserving the existent and with possible new positions for high quality operators).
• SEABIOPLAS promotes the implementation of sustainable aquaculture of seaweeds in Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture systems. It is expected that with the increased demand of high quality seaweed biomass, besides the positive influence in employment levels in this sector, also the traditional aquaculture industry (especially in the southern Europe countries) should be positively impacted by SEABIOPLAS, bringing more employment and higher life quality standards to the populations involved in that sector.
• For the industry processing the seaweed residues in SEABIOPLAS, the livestock feed producers, which is faced to strong competition, new sustainable and eco-friendly products able to receive the organic label will have direct impact on the sales costs; also, reducing the use of the expensive synthetic components will have direct impact on production costs. Improved competitiveness will participate to preserve employment in this important European industry.
• For technology providers and sub-systems suppliers, it opened new business opportunities to supply new equipment and consumables to plastics and seaweed companies.
European added value:
In Europe, legislation, depleting landfill capacity, pressure from retailers, growing consumer interest in sustainable plastic solutions, fossil oil and gas independence and greenhouse gas emissions reduction will keep on being market drivers for biodegradable plastics. The legislation on the reduction in the amount of non-biodegradable plastic, efficient use of resources and management of residues as valued by-products as well as disposal of bioplastics tends to be harmonized at a European level. Even though large strides have been made to reduce the use of non-biodegradable plastics, this industry will continue to grow; at the same time the demand for bioplastics will also increase; so, the factors that delay an even higher growth rate of these products and the implementation of environmental policies must be targeted. The search for alternative sustainable but efficient raw materials is one of the solutions. The European dimension of the SEABIOPLAS project made it possible to take into account the variability between countries concerning bio-economy approaches, sustainability practices, market aims and regulations. One of the main goals of the project was to reach an optimum adaptability of the seaweed based polymers: relying on the different profiles of manufacturers involved, the project aimed at addressing a large community of SMEs (processors and end-users). Technically, a key-characteristic of the project was the integration effort that was necessary to gather various knowledge bases and technologies to use the new raw material in the different applications. The technical approach aimed at compiling several technological tools (optimised seaweed culture systems, different processing methods) to finally develop a product that could adapt to the production lines of the different end-users and generate profit. This integration effort needed the contribution from the different fields and would not be possible at a national level. Collaboration of different SMEs from different sectors in the field of plastics, seaweed biomass, animal feed has ensured a large diffusion of the SEABIOPLAS solution to European SMEs coming from traditional industries in the different sectors. To meet the challenges it was necessary that a strong Community-level team of partners developed the project. The essential skills to meet the objectives were not available in any one member state. In addition it was of great importance for the user-acceptance of the guidelines and the system that the development was based on co-operation of partners from more than one state.
A list of the dissemination activities is given in the dissemination section on the Seabioplas platform on ECAS but essentially it includes the presentation of the project at; 27 scientific events/conferences (oral presentation), 12 industry/public events, 4 published articles, 3 scientific publications (in press), 4 conferences/workshops organized, 3 press releases, 5 websites (including the project website), 5 flyers, 5 posters, 1 video, 1 TV appearance, 1 final brochure and 1 best practice guidelines produced.
Adequate materials for training were developed (best practice guidelines and videos produced), as the project results were validated towards the end of the project. A dedicated training session for SMEs was organised in Portugal on the 3-4th February 2015. However, special attention was paid to customise training dedicated to SMEs according to their area of expertise (seaweed farming, PLA producers, paint, plastic and cattle feed manufacturers).
The website for SEABIOPLAS can be viewed at www.seabioplas.eu. The website has acted as a central database allowing all members of the consortium to access any documentation, minutes, reports, presentations, technical data or agreements. In addition we have used dropbox for this function particularly for larger files. The website also functions as a dissemination tool for the posting of conference dates, event information or the display of public access results. The website statistics were as follows: an average of ??? page views per month with ??? users in total (mainly from the ????).
Since the very beginning of the project, the task leaders have developed high impact dissemination activities. The project was presented at 27 scientific conferences and events and these are listed on ECAS under dissemination activities. Scientific papers are also in preparation and will be published over the coming months. A couple of examples include:
• Dietary seaweed supplementation altered metabolic rate, innate immune and antioxidant responses in seabass (Dicentrarchus labrax): implications for aquaculture. (submitted to the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry), Peixoto, M.J. J.C. Svendsen, H. Malte, L.F. Pereira, P. Carvalho, R. Pereira, J.F. Goncalves and R. Ozorio. (Output from WP6)
• Seaweed Alaria esculenta as a biomonitor species of metal contamination in Aughinish Bay, Ireland. (submitted to the Journal of Marine Science and Research Development), Reis, P.A. J.F. Goncalves, H.A. Abreu, R. Pereira, M. Benoit, F. O’Mahony, I. Connellan, J. Maguire and R. Ozorio (Output from WP2)
The dissemination process aimed at raising public awareness has included popular articles in regional and national newspapers combined with television interviews. Social media was also used to promote results to the general public. Press releases, flyers and brochures were made for any interesting results. Special attention was paid to the translation of these press releases/newsletters into different languages aiming to popularize their content. The materials produced were also distributed to the industrial networks of the Seabioplas participants. In addition all materials were submitted to “Alpha Galileo” which provides the world’s media with research news and results. Our latest newsletter has been read by 4,233 journalists and 347 have used information from the press releases in their own articles/blogs.
Industry dissemination also included direct publication in relevant trade magazines and attendance at technical industry meetings and conferences (listed on ECAS under dissemination activities). They were also invited to attend a Seabioplas workshop entitled “European seaweed production and marketability” in Oban, Scotland (May 13-14th 2015). Over 100 people were in attendance mainly from an industrial background but policy makers were also in attendance.
• Primary exploitation will be by SME and enterprise end-users of new seaweed-based compounds for conversion into different types of seaweed-based bio-plastic products (sleeves, films, coatings) and by-products (animal feed).
• Where modified or new technologies/processes represent marketable tools, SME partners will commercialise these.
• Partners will seek exploitation opportunities within their sectors
• Prototypes, products and services from the project were specified.
A description of expected exploitable results arising from the SEABIOPLAS project is outlined in the previous section. New IP resulting from the SEABIOPLAS project is owned equally by the SMEs involved in the task in which such foreground was generated by the RTD performers. Where new IP was developed based on a combination of pre-existing know-how and the project results, a division of the IP was made between the SMEs, reflecting the contributions of those SMEs to the knowledge.
The SMEs have agreed that if some SME partners do not have the financial resources to maintain all patent opportunities in the longer term they will instead have free access and use of the technologies in the market areas of bioplastic manufacturing using the SEABIOPLAS solution.
The Exploitation Manager, Helena Abreu of AlgaPlus with the aid of the co-ordinator, Julie Maguire (DOMMRS), were responsible for organizing the protection of the IP generated throughout the project. This role required them to:
• Identify and assess all project results;
• Regulate / police the reporting of project ideas / project results;
• Ensure that the SME Participants were made aware of the project results;
• Prevent public disclosure of results by the RTD performers;
• Update the Steering Committee on a regular basis;
• Include recommendations on an appropriate protection approach;
• Follow through once the protection strategy was agreed;
• Ensure protection was in place prior to exploitation and dissemination.
In terms of resources (human and financial) and other requirements an “IP Committee”, formed by the participating SMEs or their future nominees: AlgaPlus (Helena Abreu), CPS (Freddie O’Mahony), AgroLabo (Francesa Bellandini) & H&H (Hylcke Okkinga) will define the necessary structures for further development, implementation, management and update of the results of the project. Our exploitation strategy post-project has been divided into three major phases:
Year 1 post-project: Further research: Since the very beginning several challenging areas were identified which will require further investment and investigation before deployment (not only in the technology field but also regulatory issues, safety and approvals procedures for the products). It is envisaged that we will also continue to conduct upscaling experiments (creating batches of >1kg of PLA). We will also create new applications with the bioplastic produced. The Body Shop has expressed an interest in using the products developed. We have already signed a non-disclosure agreement with them and they intend to launch the new seaweed based packaging in 2017. However, before that we need to optimize our techniques, streamline production in order to reduce costs and work together (with our licensees) to create a workable standard operating procedure for each of the products developed.
Year 2 post-project: Process and supply-chain: As outlined in the DoW, the project consortium aim to build a pan-European supply chain capable of providing the components required for a cost-effective integration of the SEABIOPLAS technology. Where necessary some technology will be sub-contracted but the IPR will benefit the SMEs directly. Work will continue in the development of appropriate packaging for the Body Shop and we expect to continue work on our water soluble plastic products in particular. The SME participants will advertise/disseminate the results produced by SEABIOPLAS to relevant professional organisations so that Seabioplas is recognised as a viable alternative to other bio-plastic products. The dissemination of project results will continue via our websites and through relevant conferences, magazines and tradeshows.
Year 3 post-project: SEABIOPLAS Development & Approvals: Apart from the contract with the Body Shop (yet to be fully negotiated), market penetration is unknown as it may be reliant on whether the Body Shop require an exclusivity agreement or not (yet to be determined). If no exclusivity is required market penetration will be relatively small to medium targeting effective end-users applications which will have the greatest immediate benefit and the project partners will seek to demonstrate or trial a number of these applications for various packaging companies. There may be a benefit in a mass production deployment, but further investigation will be needed on the system design and if a modular approach is practical. The SMEs will use its existing connections, partners and clients to find opportunities to apply the technology and develop further case studies.
Year 4+: Exploitation and Global expansion: Over this phase we expect some of our first adopters to consider expanding their interest which will accelerate sales of multiple products per company and increasing our customer base. Project partners will seek to continually improve and refine techniques, expand the range of applications, work with current key suppliers and identify innovation that can assist in boosting performance. This action will increase the manufacturing efficiency.
List of Websites:
Daithi O'Murchu Marine Research Station
Ph +353 27 29180
Grant agreement ID: 606032
1 October 2013
30 September 2015
€ 2 000 868,89
€ 1 490 000
BANTRY MARINE RESEARCH STATION LIMITED
Deliverables not available
Grant agreement ID: 606032
1 October 2013
30 September 2015
€ 2 000 868,89
€ 1 490 000
BANTRY MARINE RESEARCH STATION LIMITED
Grant agreement ID: 606032
1 October 2013
30 September 2015
€ 2 000 868,89
€ 1 490 000
BANTRY MARINE RESEARCH STATION LIMITED