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Invest in technology to boost recycling

Pattanathu Rahman

The bio-based industry pro­vides major opportunities to convert waste and biomass surplus into environmentally friendly and healthcare products.

Green waste, spent grains from breweries, bakery waste, wool, plant materials, fruit, vegetables and agricultural residues are some of the materials that offer huge potential in recycling innovation.

Across the world moves are being made against plastics as public awareness of their damage rises. A number of companies are launching con­sumer products made from bio-based ingredients, and significant capital investments in pilot plant expansion are continuing.

Taking a bio-based approach to producing materials, chem­ical and energy rather than using imported fossil resources creates many opportunities for Europe for a new knowledge and technology-intensive economy, with high-employ­ment potential and reduced environmental impact.

As we look forward to 2019, the bio-based economy can do much more. For example, global production of wool is around 1.1 million tonnes a year, but a large quantity is wasted. The role of sheep farming in a sustainable bio-economy is not recognised very well.

The biggest challenge faced by the industry in ‘doing more’ is that bio-based technology replacement for conventional chemical technologies are cur­rently expensive to operate and potentially affect the develop­ment of profitable business models.

How national and international regulations support and encourage use of bio-based technologies and products are also a key factor, as is the shortage of highly-skilled workers in the sector.

At Teesside University, and through our spin-off company TeeGene Biotech, we are lead­ing the way in research and innovation around bio-based processes. We have already developed ways to extract high-value chemicals from algae, plants and micro-organ­isms.

In particular, we have found ways to develop biosurfactants – which act like soap and help to emulsify liquids – from strains of bacteria. These bio­surfactants are made in the lab and are fully biodegradable, with minimal impact on the environment. They have anti-microbial and anti-ageing properties.

Our approach to producing much more economical and cost-efficient biosurfactants in the industries in which they are used – the replacement of traditional synthetic sur­factants and emulsifiers in cos­metics and soap, healthcare, paints and coatings, household detergents, industrial and institutional cleaning, per­sonal care, crop protection, oilfield, textiles, construction, leather, mine and mineral pro­cessing, pulp and paper and food processing industries – is a key part of the solution.

Dr Pattanathu Rahman is a senior lecturer in microbial biotech at Portsmouth University and director of TeeGene Biotech

Readers' comments (1)

  • Thanks to MRW team for the update about TeeGene and our R&D works. For your information, I have relocated to University of Portsmouth (https://researchportal.port.ac.uk/portal/en/persons/pattanathu-rahman(55fa3ce1-7c8f-4334-b1e5-0862b975e380).html) and expanding our activities in South Coastal regions and London city.

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