Based in Italy’s Po River delta in the Italian north-east, biochemical company Novamont has opened the first plant in the world to make a chemical compound used in the production of plastics with renewable sources such as sugar and water.
The compound is called bio-butanediol and will be used primarily for biodegradable plastics for fruit and vegetable bags and shopping bags.
“Bio-butanediol is a highly-used chemical compound across different sectors like chemistry or electronics. It is consumed and used in a large amount of plastic products.
The big innovation here is the production of this compound by fermentation switching from a petrol-based chemistry to a water and sugar-based chemistry and thus much more environmentally friendly,” says Mater-Biotech Executive Director Stefano Dessi.
Until now, the industrial production of butanediol has only come from fossil fuel sources.
The transformation process from sugar to butanediol takes just a few days and it begins in a small sterile room through fermentation, for example by using e.coli-type bacteria.
“The first part of production happens in the laboratories and consists of preparing the inoculum. We begin with the frozen micro-organism culture inside the vial and we make it grow in a flask under controlled temperature. Once it has grown we transfer the inoculum to the fermentation phase,” says Mater-Biotech Quality Manager Enrico Casareto.
During the fermentation phase micro-organisms will transform sugar into bio-butanediol.
The use of this technique will increase the renewable content from 36% to 61% and it will decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 10-15%