DIGEST-PLAST Project | Faculty of Chemistry at the Gdańsk University of Technology

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DIGEST-PLAST Project

DIGEST-PLAST Project: "Methane fermentation of biomass containing biodegradable polymeric material"

The total cost of the project is 6 191 788,96 PLN including the value of co-financing 5 909 516,14 PLN paid with a division into:

85% of the funding amount from the Norway Grants, which is 5 023 088,72 PLN

15% of the funding amount from the resources of a state budget, which is 886 427,42  PLN

The methane fermentation process of biomass containing biodegradable polymeric material is one of the key elements of the modern circular economy and is a challenge for systems related to their processing. Biodegradable polymers are increasingly used in the production of packaging, cutlery and dishes, and thus may constitute an increasing share in the biomass subject to methane fermentation. They affect the properties of the biomass, which translates into efficiency of biogas production in the reactors, the quality digestate and its susceptibility to composting. Additionally, they can be a source of microplastics, currently polluting the environment on a global scale.

In this regard, the project focus on:

  • Effectiveness of biochemical anaerobic and aerobic degradation of biopolymer components, e.g. derived from various products, e.g. packaging, bags, cutlery,
  • Estimating the resources of biopolymers in Pomerania, which may be present in the biomass sent for fermentation, or be intentionally added to the charge for fermentation reactors,
  • Maximizing the efficiency of the methane biogas installation,
  • Fertilization properties of digestate and compost obtained from digestate,
  • Degragation of biodegradable polymer materials (present in the biomass input, poferment and compost), in terms of microplastics formation.

The research will allow us to propose process parameters for biogas plants processing biomas with the addition of biodegradable polymers.

In the DIGEST-PLAST project, an important element will be the biogas efficiency of the process for the organic fraction of municipal waste collected selectively and in this respect it is a continuation of the POM-BIOGAS project carried out by the Gdańsk University of Technology in 2013-2016. However, biogas production is well developed all over the world. The cooperation of consortium members based on practice and knowledge will lead to:

1. The solutions in the use of energy from waste economy, oriented closed-circuit,

2. Broader looking at issues of microplastics, especially with regard to its source, which may comprise biodegradable polymers,

3. Method of processing the charge contaminated with biodegradable plastics,

4. Determination of design factors for anaerobic digestion to obtain the highest quality of produced biogas,

5. Assessment of degradation of plastics during the methane fermentation process

6. Increasing the scale of the process,

7. Control of odor emissions in the fermentation process,

8. Verification of digestate quality in the presence of biodegradable plastics in biomass

9. Raising awareness of microparticles of plastic in the surrounding environment,

10. Better understanding of converting biodegradable plastics into microplastics.

In the case of reusing natural resources for renewable energy sources, the production of biogas from biomass, should pay attention to two issues: technical possibilities of its implementation and environmental education at an appropriate level, contributing to its use.  The project addresses the very important issue of microplastics, biodegradable materials present in the environment. If the impact of the presence of biodegradable plastics on the course of methane fermentation can be demonstrated, it will make a significant contribution to the development of recommendations for the practical processing of biomass containing biodegradable polymers and ultimately enable sustainable activities. Careful investigation of the degradation of plastics during anaerobic digestion can improve overall waste management.

In the case of reusing natural resources for renewable sources, i.e. the production of biogas from biomass, two issues should be considered: technical possibilities of its implementation and environmental education at an appropriate level contributing to its use. The project addresses the very important issue of microplastics, biodegradable materials present in the environment. If the impact of the presence of biodegradable plastics on the course of methane fermentation can be demonstrated, it will make a significant contribution to the formulation of recommendations for the practical processing of biomass containing biodegradable polymers and ultimately enable sustainable operations. Careful investigation of the degradation of plastics during anaerobic digestion can improve overall waste management.

The application potential of the proposed activities will be particularly clear thanks to the cooperation with an industrial partner who is very interested in the project results. He is already recognizing the problem with different types of plastics in the resulting waste stream, which needs to be solved in the near future.

New and improved approaches to methane digestion process design and scale-up strategies will fill the knowledge gaps. Biological treatment of waste can be a technology that optimizes future applications and meets the expectations of a sustainable economy. In addition, innovations in assessing the impact of emerging contaminants on process flow as well as developing safer treatment procedures will be revealed.

The external institutions that are involved in the project are  the Institute's R & D Aquateam COWI operating in the water and sewage sector, established in Oslo and Utilization Plant Sp. z o.o. in Gdansk.

This research leading to these results has received funding from the Norway Grants 2014-2021 via the National Centre for Research and Development.