Living on water from Mars
Wastewater from the Mars factory in Veghel feeds bacteria in an STW-funded pilot plant, producing bioplastic.
At the rear of the factory a stream of cream-coloured wastewater flows into the sewer. A tiny part (much less than a percent) of this stream containing sugars and fatty acids is drawn off toward a white container that houses the pilot plant. Operations here are run by Avans Academy student Casper Borsje and TU PhD-student Jelmer Tamis MSc. The process runs in three steps: fermentation, selection and accumulation.
The pilot plant has been operational since November 2012 and will probably be in use until the end of 2013. By that time, Tamis hopes to have increased the PHA content of the produced biomass. The production has to be optimised to bring down the production costs of currently about 8 euro/kilogram to 2 euro/kilogram. The candy factory Mars would like to use bioplastics for its wrappers, but will only do so if the cost is comparable to the fossil plastics it uses thus far (News article TUDELTA, 23 May 2013).