Plastic waste is a growing global problem, especially in the oceans. Solutions are urgently needed to mitigate this problem, and is subsequently a focus area for governments, NGOs and research groups in several countries.
Marine plastic waste is also a major problem for Norway. The plastic waste poses a threat to all marine life, which in the long term can have devastating consequences for the country's fisheries and aquaculture industry. Another challenge in the fishing industryis the huge quantities (about 630.00 tonnes) of raw material that are not utilized annually.
The NewPolySea project seeks to address both challenges simultaneously. In the project the possibility of converting unutilized marine raw rest materials into a type of bioplastic, called polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs), using marine bacteria.
To achieve this goal a strong multinational and multidisciplinary team of industrial microbiologists, polymer chemists, environmental scientists, as well as business developers and industrial advisers has been assembled. The project has been divided into various work packages and several of these are currently in progress. Different ways of preparing the RRMs for fermentation and different fermentation processes are being evaluated.
The project was completed in December 2020 and it clearly demonstrated that marine rest raw materials can indeed be converted into PHA. Further R&D is still required to develop this proof-of-concept further toward commercialization. Follow-up studies are currently being planned.
In the NewPolySea project it was demonstrated that unutilized rest raw materials (RRMs) from the Norwegian fishing industry can indeed be used to produced polyhydroxyalkanoates. Different types of PHA polymers could be produced and it depended on (i) which fraction of the RRM was used as feedstock, and (ii) on which fermentation strategy. Much R&D work still remains before the developed technologies can be commercialized, but this project built a broad platform for the required follow-up studies.
Plastics are a major source of environmental pollution, but are also an indispensable part of our contemporary society. Bioplastics not only offer a solution to this impasse, but it simultaneously offers an opportunity to extend the value chain of the Norwegian fishing and aquaculture industry. In this project, unutilized rest raw materials from Norways fishing industry (estimated at over 600,000 tons per annum) will be used as a feedstock to produce bacterial polymers, called polyhydroxyalkanoates. These polymers can be used in bioplastic production, but can also serve as a source of valuable monomers.
Both of these bioproducts (i.e. polymers and monomers) are associated with high future growth projections and the potential to strongly contribute to Norways bioeconomy. The global bioplastics and biopolymer market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 17,5 % or more between 2016-2020, with an expected increase to USD 20 billion by 2019, and USD 324 billion by 2030.
An ongoing pre-project has yielded promising results, but to evaluate the commercial potential of this idea, optimization funding is required. In this project, several fermentation strategies will be employed to convert various different types of marine raw rest materials into biopolymers, which will then be assessed for use as environmentally-friendly bioplastics and/or as a source for high-value monomers. In order to achieve this, a strong multinational and multidisciplinary team of industrial microbiologists, polymer and organic chemists, environmental scientists, as well as business developers and industrial advisers has been assembled. The project is expected to be completed within three years.
At the end of this project we will have the results and partners needed for market verification (FORNY2020) and the establishment of a new production company. This project offers a clear contribution to Norways bioeconomy within the paradigm of sustainable and environmentally responsible development.