Omani researchers convert wastepaper into bioplastic, bioethanol and biodiesel

Muscat - 

The wastepaper which accounts for more than 35 per cent of the total lignocellulosic waste of the municipal solid waste could be a potential feedstock for value-added products due to its rich cellulose content, researchers in Oman have found.

Municipal solid waste management is a challenging problem for the sultanate. Solid waste in Oman mainly consists of wood, paper, food materials, plastics, metals and glass. Municipal solid waste contains high amounts of cellulose, which is an ideal organic waste for the growth of most of microorganisms.

Most of the carbon dioxide and methane are produced from biodegradable cellulosic wastes such as wood, leaves, other agricultural residues and waste papers. Hence the use of cellulosic waste materials as a substrate for bacterial fermentation would reduce the problem of waste management to a reasonable extent.

With the help of the grant received from The Research Council, Dr Sivakumar Nallusamy, assistant professor at the Department of Biology, Sultan Qaboos University, and his team successfully converted the wastepaper into commercially valuable products. A team consisting of one post doctorate and three PhD students are working in this project.

They have collected waste office paper, newspaper and cardboard paper and subjected them to different pre-treatment methods. The pretreated wastepapers were converted into fermentable sugars by enzymatic hydrolysis.

The obtained fermentable sugars were successfully converted into bioplastic, bioethanol and biodiesel using appropriate microorganisms.

The team has published their findings in internationally reputed journals. For this pioneer study on the conversion of waste paper into value added products, Dr Nallusamy strengthened the bioprocess laboratory by installing a 100lt bioreactor that could be used to produce the above products at a pilot scale level.

Municipal solid waste management is a challenging problem for the sultanate. With a population of above 3mn, the country is generating more than 1.6mn tonnes of solid waste per year. In Muscat 366,000 tonnes of garbage is collected annually and dumped in landfills.

The increase of solid waste is becoming a global problem. Different methods such as burial, incineration and recycling are used to dispose solid waste. Improper management of solid waste contaminates air, soil and water.

Disposal of solid waste in landfills pollutes the ground water and causes emission of greenhouse gases.

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