A UK-based demonstration plant that generates industrial biotechnology sugars and other recycled material streams from the paper and card in mixed household waste came online in May 2022. The plant, located in the south of Wales, marks the next advancement in the VAMOS (Value Added Materials from Organic Waste Sugars) project. That project, set up to examine the feasibility of using municipal waste as a raw material feedstock for the circular and bio-based economy with the help of innovative resource recovery technology. By using municipal waste as a feedstock, the project’s goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in producing new goods compared to fossil-based and/or virgin alternatives.
“Demonstrating this technology will showcase the potential to deploy this solution as a platform for bio-based sugars and other chemicals or materials such as lactic acid and polylactic acid,” said Nick Thompson, co-founder and managing director of Fiberight Ltd., one of the participating companies in the 11-strong European consortium conducting the project.
Fiberight Ltd will now work towards providing tonne scale sugar samples to its partners for the next stage of R&D demonstration. The sugar will be tested within a thermoset resin binder and used as a fermentation feedstock to produce lactic acid and polylactic acid bioplastic.
“This stage marks the culmination of 10 years of R&D work and we’re now seeing real progress,” added Thompson. “Scaling up our novel laboratory-scale process into an engineering design that will work has been challenging, so we are looking forward to operating and optimising the process further at scale.”
Originally launched in September 2019 as a three-year project, VAMOS has overcome a number of Covid-related and material supply challenges to get back on track with the commissioning of the new demonstration facility.
Next to Fiberight, the other members of the consortium include project co-ordinators Oakdene Hollins Ltd; Aberystwyth University Royal Charter; Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine and Knauf Insulation Ltd, along with German companies EW Biotech GmbH and IFEU – Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, plus Celignis Ltd (Ireland); AEP Polymers SRL (Italy); Transfercenter fur Kunststofftechnik GmbH (Austria) and Novozymes A/S (Denmark). The Centre for Process Innovation UK is expected to join soon as a new project partner.
The consortium secured €6,984,813 in funding from Circular bio-based Europe JU - formerly Bio Based Industries Joint Undertaking - under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.
Next steps for the consortium are centred around making bio-based demonstrator products from sugars and solid residues for non-food applications in the construction, textile, furnishings and fast-moving consumer goods sectors.
Specifically, Aberystwyth University will be looking at the development of a method for efficiently producing lactic acid from waste-derived sugars and technology to isolate lignin from residual solids after hydrolysis, while in Italy, AEP Polymers is using residual solids and purified lignin to produce novel bio-based formulations for grouts, adhesives and epoxy resins. Fiberight will be creating polylactic acid fibre composite products using fibres obtained through its Hydracycle process. Imperial College in the UK and TCKT in Germany are exploring the use of these composites for agricultural products such as protective covers, and storage and horticultural containers. Germany-based IFEU will be performing lifecycle analysis to assess the carbon footprint and environmental impact of the VAMOS process.