Plastic pollution and accumulation of microplastics in the oceans are increasingly gaining public awarenes and urging the cosmetic and food industries to fulfill the demand for environmentally responsible packaging concepts. Thus, SusPackaging aims to initiate a green value chain for the production of biodegradable, bio‑based packaging materials. Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) are biodegradable biopolymers that have properties similar to conventional plastics. PHAs are naturally produced by bacteria as intracellular storage granules that serve as a source of carbon and energy and may comprise up to 90 percent of the cell dry weight. Currently, high cost of production and downstream processing results in PHAs being uncompetitive compared to conventional oil‑derived polymers.
During this project, Fraunhofer IGB has evaluated the production of different PHA molecular variants through selection and isolation of microorganisms able to transform sustainable carbon sources like methane from the biogas production, sugars derived from cellulose and hemicellulose from forestry and agricultural residues, and glycerol resulting from biodiesel production. Additionally, a highly efficient, solvent‑free downstream processing approach is being developed. The use of Pressure Change Technology (PCT) and supercritical fluids for cell disruption and material recovery has been adapted for this application. Physical‑chemical properties of obtained materials, correlation to key quality requirements, and a Life Cycle Potential Analysis are being studied in cooperation with our project partners.