Three Italian start-up entrepreneurs are scaling up a technology to derive bio-based plastic from agricultural waste waters.
Enjoy my video-interview with Paolo Stufano, one of the founders of Eggplant Srl of Bari, Italy, here.
Background and additional information
The Eggplant ecopreneurs currently focus on wastewater from olive-oil-production. Olives are pressed to get the oil. Then the oil is washed with water to clean it from fruit residues. After the washing process the water contains fruit residues and water soluble components from the olives. Thus the wastewater contains a lot of energy rich organic compounds.
Bacteria turn energy rich components into PHA (Polyhydroxyalcanoates).
Bacteria produce them to as energy stores inside their cells. For polymer-industry these PHAs are the same as they use them for plastic production.
Eggplant Srl's strategy to produce bio-based can be applied to waste waters deriving from a variety of agrigricultural and food industry processes,
e.g. cheese, dairy, fruit juice, sugar-beet, wine, corn, potato chips etc.
In case of olive-oil the entrepreuneurs have to extract polyphenolic components from the waste water before they feed it to the bacteria. These antioxidant substances are highly valuable for human health but would be toxic to the bacteria. It would also be toxic to biological processes in the soil.
Eggplant is still a very small company. They have demonstrated the process on laboratory scale so far. Currently they can produce 5 to 10 gramms of bioplastic per week. „We are going to scale up to a pilot-scale in the next two years,“ Paolo Stufano told me.