Volatile fatty acid platform - A cornerstone for the circular bioeconomy

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Annually, the EU produces more than 100 million tonnes of urban biowaste, which is largely under-valorized and in some cases even still landfilled without any energy or material recovery. If Europe wants to be ready for the future, it will need to make better use of this large biomass potential within a circular economy approach. The research project funded by the European Commission under the Horizon 2020 programme entitled 'VOLATILE - Biowaste derived volatile fatty acid platform for biopolymers, bioactive compounds and chemical building blocks' aimed to produce volatile fatty acids (VFAs) from biowaste for reprocessing into products, materials or substances to close the material loop. During the project, the partners were able to obtain average volatile fatty acid yields of 627 g COD/kg organic matter (OM) for food waste, 448 g COD/kg OM for separately collected vegetable, garden and fruit waste (VGF) and 384 g COD/kg OM for the organic fraction of municipal solid waste (OF-MSW) at concentrations ranging from 12 to 48 g/L, 6 to 40 g/L and 13 to 26 g/L, respectively. A membrane filtration cascade consisting of micro-, ultra- and nano-filtration followed by reverse osmosis was identified as a feasible way to purify and concentrate the VFA effluent, making them a suitable carbon source for further fermentation processes. Besides technical optimization, socio-economic and legal aspects associated with this platform technology were also studied and show that although this technology is still in development, it is providing an answer to changing societal and market expectations both regarding organic waste treatment and bio-based production strategies. Based on the current technological, economic and market evolutions, it is expected that the VFAP will play an important role in organic waste treatment in the coming years.




Velghe, F., De Wilde, F., Snellinx, S., Farahbakhsh, S., Belderbos, E., Peral, C., … Dietrich, T. (2021, May 1). Volatile fatty acid platform - A cornerstone for the circular bioeconomy. FEMS Microbiology Letters. Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/femsle/fnab056

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