07. Oct 2020
Five Dutch water companies have joined hands with the STOWA knowledge center, technology company Paques and sustainable waste and energy company HVC, to build a pilot plant in Dordrecht for the production of PHBV, a fully degradable and sustainable bioplastic.
PHBV is produced by microbes in organic waste streams such as sewage sludge, industrial wastewater and food scraps. This pilot plant represents the first step towards the eventual commercial production of PHBV.
The five water boards - Brabant Delta, De Dommel, Hollandse Delta, Scheldestromen and Wetterskip Fryslân - successfully produced their first PHBV in 2016, within the scope of the in the PHARIO pilot project, from bacteria able to eliminate fatty acids from wastewater. Wastewater contains quantities of volatile fatty acids and the sludge contains bacteria. These bacteriagorge themselves on the volatile fatty acids, producing PHBV that, like human fat, is stored as an energy source. This PHBV is extracted, after which a powder remains, which can be used in various applications.
PHBV is a high-quality biopolyester that is 100% degradable in soil and at composting plants, as well as in fresh and salt water.
PHBV can be applied, among other things, in agriculture and horticulture. At the pilot plant, for example, biodegradable pots have been tested for use in the the agricultural sector. Biodegradable pots would eliminate the need to pot crops during cultivation, as these would naturally degrade. Another example is the use of PHBV in self-healing concrete for basements and tunnels. Adding PHBV causes cracks in the concrete to automatically reseal. An additional advantage is that in self-healing concrete in many cases less reinforcement has to be used, which in turn contributes to cost reduction and reduces the burden on the environment.
After the PHARIO pilot project, it was found that the market was not yet ripe for the biopolyester, which led to the decision by the participants in the project to start with a pilot plant. This plant would produce enough material to allow the market to test its processing and use. Already, various partners are testing the material.
The experience gained from the PHARIO project will be combined with the specifc expertise contributed by Paques. That company has also collaborated with TU Delft on the development of a technology to produce PHBV from industrial wastewater. The pilot plant will be located at HVC's sludge processing plant in Dordrecht. It is expected to open at the end of 2021.