GENECIS: project for processing of food waste into bioplastics for 3D printing

Food waste management is probably one of the most important problems concerning the environment. And if the discharge of substances from the combustion or gasoline engines in theory possible to do something radically abandoning them in favor of environmentally friendly sources of energy, here to refuse food will not work at all desire. And a group of researchers from Canada’s University of Toronto have developed a very interesting method, thanks to which food waste can be turned into biodegradable plastics for 3D printing. And the range of applications of such plastic material is truly vast: from children’s toys to medical devices.

Get experts plastic produced in the framework of the project Genecis, and the substances are called polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA). The PGA is a group of high-quality biodegradable polymers, which on the physical properties have similarities to the plastic “traditional”, but have a very useful function: in the soil they decompose for 1 year, and in the water in less than 10 years. It seems that quite a long time, but compared to the common plastic based on PVC and other compounds (which require several hundred years for the decomposition) is a very good indicator.

The production of PHA takes place in 3 stages. At stage 1, a genetically modified anaerobic bacteria (that is, those which do not need oxygen) decompose food waste into fatty acids. This process is somewhat similar to the one that occurs in the stomach of mammals. Then “connect” aerobic bacteria which in the presence of oxygen produced on the basis of fatty acids PHAS. Next comes the time of the third stage: purification of PHAS from bacteria and waste their life and obtaining the final substance. To receive plastic takes about 7 days, and the production of associated gas is 21 days. It can already be used as fuel.

One of the bioreactors for the production of PHAS.

The team of canadian experts currently working on the creation of new species and subspecies of bacteria (many of which do not even have names) to improve the production technology. Experts now aim to develop processes that would allow the creation of biodegradable plastic to flow. As stated by the Director of the company Vani Sankar,

“We are ready to experiment with bacterial cultures and beyond. If the scope of application of plastic is quite clear, here the biogas can be used to fuel cars. Using gas can reduce the emission of combustion products to 243 tons per year. And that’s with only a few cars.”

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