Chapter

Polymers - Opportunities and Risks II

Volume 12 of the series The Handbook of Environmental Chemistry pp 81-96

Date:

Sustainable Embedding of the Bioplastic Poly-(3-Hydroxybutyrate) into the Sugarcane Industry: Principles of a Future-Oriented Technology in Brazil

  • Martin KollerAffiliated withInstitute of Biotechnology and Biochemical Engineering, Graz University of Technology Email author 
  • , Paula HesseAffiliated withInstitute of Biotechnology and Biochemical Engineering, Graz University of Technology
  • , Christoph KutscheraAffiliated withInstitute for Process and Particle Engineering, Graz University of Technology
  • , Rodolfo BonaAffiliated withInstitute of Biotechnology and Biochemical Engineering, Graz University of Technology
  • , Jefter NascimentoAffiliated withPHB Industrial SA, Fazenda da Pedra
  • , Silvio OrtegaAffiliated withPHB Industrial SA, Fazenda da Pedra
  • , José Augusto AgnelliAffiliated withMaterials Engineering Department, São Carlos Federal University
  • , Gerhart BrauneggAffiliated withInstitute of Biotechnology and Biochemical Engineering, Graz University of Technology

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Abstract

To make the biodegradable polymer poly-(3-hydroxybutyrate) (PHB) economically competitive with common end-of-pipe plastic materials from petrochemistry, the production costs have to be reduced considerably. The embedding of the industrial PHB production into a sugar and ethanol factory starting from the raw material sugarcane makes it possible to achieve a production price per kilogram PHB that is 4–5 times lower than known for prior PHB production processes. This cost reduction is enabled by an extensive utilisation of by-products of the sugarcane plant, especially of bagasse. In the presented process, this typical waste product is burned for generation of the steam and electrical energy required for the process. Furthermore, the availability of the substrate sucrose in high quantities leads to the gained price advantage. Together with the application of ethanol as an alternative fuel, CO2 emissions from the production plant return to the sugarcane fields via photosynthetic fixation, resulting in a carbon balance of nearly zero. The utilisation of medium chain length alcohols, by-products of the ethanol production integrated in this plant, substitutes the classic PHB extraction method using chlorinated agents. In this way, the major drawbacks regarding profitability and environmental embedding of PHB production are solved within a future-oriented, integrated process.

Keywords

Autarkic energy supply Biopolymers Integrated production lines Sugar cane industry Sustainable process development