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Biowaste derived volatile fatty acid platform for biopolymers, bioactive compounds and chemical building blocks

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - VOLATILE (Biowaste derived volatile fatty acid platform for biopolymers, bioactive compounds and chemical building blocks)

Reporting period: 2018-06-01 to 2019-05-31

Urban population of the world has grown rapidly in the last decades. In this context appropriate management of municipal waste is a key requisite to ensure liveable conditions for inhabitants. Especially urban biowaste should be recycled and not landfilled to reduce negative effects towards the environment. Biowaste fraction should be transformed into a feedstock for other processes and thereby contributing to an Urban Circular Bioeconomy.
Therefore, VOLATILE aims in the development of an innovative Volatile Fatty Acid Platform for the bioconversion of municipal solid biowaste fraction and sludgy biowaste from other industries. The platform will be integrated in anaerobic digestion. The volatile fatty acids will be recovered continuously using sophisticated membrane technology and will be provided as feedstock (carbon source) for value added fermentation approaches to produce biopolymers (PHAs) to be tested in material applications, single cell oil as precursor for oleochemical industry as well al long chain unsaturated health-promoting Omega-3 fatty acids to be used as food ingredient or nutraceuticals. PHA´s will be obtained by bacterial fermentations, single cell oil from yeast cultivation and Omega-3 fatty acids via heterotrophic microalgae. The process development is accompanied with a life cycle assessment study in order to ensure environmentally friendly process design.
The project will also work on solutions to typical barriers beside others such as quality requirements of the end-product, continuous and sufficient feedstock supply or interaction between members of the value chain using agent-based modeling. Also, the effect of legal stimuli and restrictions as well as subsidies and taxes will be studied and a link between product requirements and markets will be established. Furthermore, VOLATILE will prepare a Roadmap indicating future research needs but also giving suggestion for legislative improvements. Finally, the project will support standardization by initiation of a CEN workshop to discuss with external stakeholder’s rules for the sustainable use of municipal solid and sludgy biowaste for added value biomolecules for industrial application and to set up standard requirements in the form of a CEN workshop agreement.
VOLATILE started its activities by establishing management rules and procedures, laying down quality requirements as well as establishing base information for the dissemination of project results. Furthermore, a data management plan was prepared, which is continuously up-dated during the project development and data creation.
To facilitate exploitation of project results several dissemination activities were initiated. The project created a web page and implemented also a stakeholder platform. The platform is open to any interested stakeholder and can be assessed after registration via the official project website. Furthermore, a VOLATILE at a glance brochure was designed, giving general project information. To develop appropriate support actions for stakeholders at different places on the value chain, three questionnaires were prepared so far to assess the stakeholder/public acceptance and to determine where the opportunities to implement a Volatile Fatty Acid Platform lie and what the expected bottlenecks are. An analysis of the responses was prepared and is used for the further project implementation. Additionally, a regular biannual newsletter was set-up and the first five newsletters were released. Also, two peer-reviewed scientific paper could be published as open access ( ; ) and the project partners presented the project at several events by oral presentation or by posters. Additional, VOLATILE participated at the first fair.
One key information needed to successfully exploit/implement the Volatile Fatty Acid Platform is the analysis of feedstock availability, collection systems established as well as treatment options implemented. Therefore, an in-depth desk study on municipal solid biowaste and sludgy biowaste from waste water treatment plants focusing first on the eight test cases and expanding the research to EU-28-member states was made. The analysis was supplemented by a study on quality requirements for the intermediates (VFA) as well as the end-products (polyhydroxyalkanoates, single cell oil, Omega-3 fatty acids) requested by the market. Furthermore, European, National and Regional law affecting the implementation of the Volatile Fatty Acid platform were analyzed. These are also important information for the Roadmap development and outreach activities to policy makers to pave the way for the sustainable use of municipal biowaste in the context of a circular bioeconomy. Additional, facts sheets on the eight business cases were prepared.
To assess the potential of different types of feedstocks, the partners responsible for the test cases provided different sample materials for feedstock analysis and first digestion test trials. More than 40 different samples were received and analysed. The sampling was repeated to identify also seasonal changes. Additionally, VOLATILE implemented membrane test trials to recover VFA from anaerobic digestion to be used as carbon source in added-value fermentation approaches.
Fermentation test trials were successfully performed, transforming volatile fatty acids into added-value compounds using bacteria for PHA production, yeasts for the transformation of volatile fatty acids into single cell oil as well as heterotrophic microalgae to produce health-promoting Omega-3 fatty acids. The implementation of down-stream processing is on-going to provide feedstocks for application development.
A first basic model for the agent-based modeling was designed in close cooperation also with external ABM experts to be able to discuss the web-based decision support tool. Furthermore, the project initiated successfully the foreseen CEN workshop by celebrating the kick off meeting in September 2018 in Brussels (
So far, many projects have been focusing on specific types of biowaste and/or on the development of specific technologies. The ambition of VOLATILE lies in the implementation of one technology (Volatile Fatty Acid Platform), to treat heterogeneous municipal biowaste thereby transforming the waste into a standardised fermentation feedstock, allowing its reuse & feeding back in the cycle – circular (bio)economy. Anaerobic digestion (AD) is a versatile biotechnology capable of converting almost all types of polymeric materials to methane and carbon dioxide.
The aim of VOLATILE is to establish appropriate process control and continuous recovery of intermediary VFA via membrane technology from AD to be able to use VFA as feedstock for added value fermentation processes. Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) bio-based polyesters can be obtained by bacteria. Costs for carbon source are critical to use PHAs in bulk commercial applications. Therefore, VOLATILE will implement a fermentation strategy to transform VFA into added value PHA(s). Another strategy to be followed is the transformation of VFAs into single cell oil for oleochemical applications using oleaginous yeast species. The third valorization approach will transform volatile fatty acids into health-promoting long-chain Omega-3 fatty acids using heterotrophic microalgae.