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

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - VOLATILE (Biowaste derived volatile fatty acid platform for biopolymers, bioactive compounds and chemical building blocks)

Reporting period: 2019-06-01 to 2020-11-30

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 aimed at the development of an innovative Volatile Fatty Acid Platform for the bioconversion of municipal solid biowaste fraction and sludgy biowaste from other industries to be integrated in anaerobic digestion. The volatile fatty acids were recovered using sophisticated membrane technology and were provided successfully 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 were obtained by bacterial fermentations, single cell oil from yeast cultivation and Omega-3 fatty acids via heterotrophic microalgae. The process development was accompanied by life cycle assessment to ensure environmentally friendly process design. Also the project worked on solutions to typical barriers 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 was studied and a link between product requirements and markets was established. Furthermore, VOLATILE prepared a Roadmap indicating future research needs but also giving suggestion for legislative improvements. Finally, the project supported 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. The CWA is available Open Access as CWA 17484: 2020 Anaerobic digestion plants -Feasibility assessment methodology for integrating a Volatile Fatty Acid Platform Technology via the CEN CENELEC download area.
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 was continuously up-dated during the project development.
To facilitate exploitation of project results several dissemination activities were performed. A web page and a stakeholder platform were implemented. 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, several questionnaires were prepared 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. Additionally, a regular biannual newsletter was set-up. Also, five 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 two fairs.
One key information needed to successfully exploit/implement the Volatile Fatty Acid Platform was 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 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. Finally the Volatile Fatty Acid Platform was successfully implemented at the TWENCE test side in the Netherlands at TRL5.
Fermentation test trials were successfully performed and up-scaled, 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. Respective down-stream processing was implemented and application tests were done. Furthermore, an agent-based model was developed and implewmented in the on-line decision support tool avaiable via the project web site. Furthermore, the project finalized successfully the foreseen CEN workshop by publishing the CWA as CWA 17484: 2020. Finally a roadmap on policy recommendations was prepared as well as an outlook on future legislation affecting the VFA value chain.
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 was 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 implemented a fermentation strategy to transform VFA into added value PHA(s). Another strategy to be followed was the transformation of VFAs into single cell oil for oleochemical applications using oleaginous yeast species. The third valorization approach successfully implemented was the transformation of volatile fatty acids into health-promoting long-chain Omega-3 fatty acids using heterotrophic microalgae.
Preparation of membrane filtration for VFA recovery at test side - TRL5
SCO extraction from yeast biomass
VOLATILE intermediates (VFA) and products obtained from VFA
Omega-3 fatty acid production from VFA with heterotrophic microalgae