The BIOCOSI project (BIOdegradable and COmpostable packaging for sustainable, circular and smart industry) has come up with a revolutionary solution to the problem of wastewater in the dairy sector. It uses the wastewater, which is rich in proteins, peptides and lactose, as a resource for producing firstly bioplastic (PHA - polyhydroxyalkanoates) and subsequently packaging (such as milk bottles) which is 100% biodegradable and compostable.
The project is fully in line with circular economy principles, seeing wastewater as a resource rather than waste, and uses green technology. It aims to ensure that the process generates zero waste and to harness the valuable components in the dairy sector's wastewater. This technology, made in Puglia, Italy, uses two fundamental processes:
- recovery and fermentation of the organic components of dairy waste in order to produce bioplastics, and
- processing the bioplastics to make food packaging.
ENEA's interest here is to consolidate an economically competitive process for the production of bioplastics which does not require expensive raw materials (such as sugar and corn) and which does provide a satisfactory answer to a number of ethical and environmental problems. Bioplastics after all generally use biomass which would otherwise be intended for human consumption and can have a large carbon footprint. BIOCOSI also does away with the issue of how to dispose of dairy waste, a costly process with a high environmental price tag.
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The BIOCOSI project has managed to develop biodegradable and compostable packaging that is rigid.