- Upcycling of waste hygiene products into biofuels and bio-based chemicals
- Cellulose supply and homogenization of overall feedstock quality
- Maximize recycling and reuse of hygiene materials safely
- Reduction of post-consumer waste left in landfills
- New source of biofuel and bio-based chemical production
- Reduction of raw material cost and operational cost
Researchers at Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Biofuels Process Demonstration Unit (ABPDU) developed a technology to produce biofuels and bio-based chemicals from post-consumer hygiene materials by recovering the cellulose content from the recovered waste and effectively transforming cellulose into useful and value added chemicals though microbial fermentation.
The Berkeley Lab approach includes a sterilization step followed by the decomposition and drying of the collected post-consumer cellulose-based products. These materials do not require further pretreatment, reducing the time and resources needed to successfully render fermentable sugars from them. Direct enzymatic saccharification achieved very good sugar yields. Also, the yeast fermentation using these sugars obtained from waste releases e.g. ethanol that can be directly used for biofuel or other industrial uses.
In the United States alone, absorbent hygiene products accounts for 7,500,000 metric tons of waste, from which 2,500,000 metric tons/year of high quality cellulose could be reclaimed, i.e., sterilized, washed, and upcycled into high value applications such as cellulosic ethanol or chemical producers.
DEVELOPMENT STAGE: The direct enzymatic saccharification of a soiled diaper produced 51.26% glucose and a 33.81% xylose conversion rate. The further hydrolysis and fermentation of these materials then produced 0.30 – 0.37 grams of ethanol per gram of glucose.
STATUS: Patent pending. Available for licensing or collaborative research.