Production of polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) biopolymers by mixed microbial cultures concurrent to wastewater treatment is a valorization route for residual organic material. This development has been at pilot scale since 2011 using industrial and municipal organic residuals. Previous experience was the basis for a PHA production demonstration project: PHARIO. PHARIO was centred on processing surplus activated sludge biomass from the Bath full-scale municipal wastewater treatment plant in the Netherlands to produce PHA. Full-scale surplus activated sludge was fed to a pilot facility to produce PHA rich biomass using fermented volatile fatty acid (VFA) rich liquors from industry or primary sludge sources. A PHA rich biomass with on average 0.41 gPHA/gVSS was obtained with reproducible thermal properties and high thermal stability. A routine kilogram scale production was established over 10 months and the polymer material properties and market potential were evaluated. Surplus full-scale activated sludge, over four seasons of operations, was a reliable raw material to consistently and predictably produce commercial quality grades of PHA. Polymer type and properties were systematic functions of the mean co-polymer content. The mean co-polymer content was predictably determined by the fermented feedstock composition. PHARIO polymers were estimated to have a significantly lower environmental impact compared to currently available (bio)plastics.

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