Dutch households produce almost 5 million tons of household waste each year. AEB Amsterdam, together with its partners Biorizon, TNO, Attero, Orgaworld, the Port of Amsterdam and the Waste Management Association, have established the Waste2Aromatics project in order to investigate how the carbohydrates (sugars) present in waste streams can be used as raw materials for the production of biobased aromatic compounds. These are then used as raw materials for the production of chemicals and plastics, among other things.
The research was successful, showing that the chosen technologies were extremely efficient in converting the sugars in waste to useful components. And – also important – the results calculated for some of the business cases showed a positive outcome. There is enough material and interest for a follow-up project, which is currently being prepared.
Collaboration in innovation
Sietse Agema and Evert Lichtenbelt from AEB are involved in this project. “There are many opportunities in the biobased economy,” says Agema. “Collaboration is crucial to being able to continue innovating. We have joined forces. Aromatic compounds are present everywhere, after all. A good 40% of all chemicals, coatings and plastics are aromatic by nature and the chemical industry is desperate for bio-aromatic compounds. These are a sustainable alternative for the aromatics currently extracted from oil. The use of bio-aromatics decreases dependence on oil and leads to reduced CO2 emissions.”
The innovation is still in its youth but has already delivered great results in the first research phase. We have successfully made furans, intermediate compounds in bio-aromatic production, from organic waste in the laboratory. The carbohydrates (sugars) are used as building blocks in this process. Waste companies can supply the intermediate compounds to the chemical industry. Over the past months, there have been experiments on the most promising streams. “The results for the business cases have been calculated and show a positive outcome,” says Agema. “This development aligns well with AEB’s ambitions to grow further into a raw materials and energy company.”
According to Evert Lichtenbelt, “We try as much as possible to add value to residual waste streams. The state of the art is now fermentation and the harvesting of energy from this residual waste stream. By taking this step, we add more value by extracting a sustainable raw material for chemicals from waste. This is a great building block in the creation of the biobased economy.”
You can read Biorizon’s message about the Waste2Aromatics project here.