Transforming urban waste in bioplastic. This was the goal of scientists from four Italian universities including Ca’ Foscari in the research project Res Urbis (REsources from URban BIo-waSte) funded with three million euros as part of the Horizon 2020 program of the European Commission.
The strength of this innovative approach is to move waste streams from mass disposal (landfilling and incineration) and create new organic and eco-friendly products with clean energy using waste as renewable resources instead of oil.
The project involves 21 partners including partners, associations, and public bodies from eight European countries and has already become an international case study: it was chosen as a showcase for the Bioeconomy Week in Brussels between November 14th and 17th. Furthermore it was mentioned by Ecomondo in Rimini as one of the best projects in circular economy with regards to water and waste.
“From the liquid phase of waste - explained professor Paolo Pavan, coordinator of the Ca’ Foscari team which focuses on the management of the pilot plant in Treviso - we generate controlled fermentation and introduce selected bacteria from mixed biomasses (sewage sludge) to produce ‘raw materials’ and obtain bioplastic that can be used for instance for garbage collection, closing the cycle and fully implementing a logic of circular economy”.
Scientists at Ca’ Foscari are also developing the processes and results linked to downstream operations - collateral processes that must be managed to maximize the overall outcome.
“Each of the 300 million Europeans who live in urban areas- explained coordinator Mauro Majone, professor of industrial chemistry at Sapienza University - produces a daily average of over 250 grammes of organic waste and its treatment and enhancement is currently rather limited. The potential impact of Res Urbis clearly appears as high. The potential environmental, economic and occupational consequences of this innovative technologies transforming waste streams in useful products with market value could be very positive. The project also aims at developing technologies that could be included in the repurposing of traditional water and waste treatment plants”.
The project is coordinated by Sapienza University in Rome and involves Ca’ Foscari, the University of Verona and the University of Bologna.
Here is how the pilot plant works: