Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) are biodegradable polyesters with comparable properties to some petroleum-based polyolefins. PHA production can be achieved in open, mixed microbial cultures and thereby coupled to wastewater and solid residual treatment. In this context, waste organic matter is utilised as a carbon source in activated sludge biological treatment for biopolymer synthesis. Within the EU project Routes, the feasibility of PHA production has been evaluated in processes for sludge treatment and volatile fatty acid (VFA) production and municipal wastewater treatment. This PHA production process is being investigated in four units: (i) wastewater treatment with enrichment and production of a functional biomass sustaining PHA storage capacity, (ii) acidogenic fermentation of sludge for VFA production, (iii) PHA accumulation from VFA-rich streams, and (iv) PHA recovery and characterisation. Laboratory- and pilot-scale studies demonstrated the feasibility of municipal wastewater and solid waste treatment alongside production of PHA-rich biomass. The PHA storage capacity of biomass selected under feast–famine with municipal wastewater has been increased up to 34% (g PHA g VSS−1) in batch accumulations with acetate during 20 h. VFAs obtained from waste activated sludge fermentation were found to be a suitable feedstock for PHA production.

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