The Project BIOCENPLAS, acronym for centralized biorefinery for the valorization of effluents from the fish processing sector in the form of bioplastics, led by ANFACO-CECOPESCA, began on December 30th, and has a consortium formed by Cetaqua, Water Technology Center, and researchers from the Interdisciplinary Center for Research in Environmental Technologies (CRETUS) of the University of Santiago de Compostela (USC). It is a project co-financed by the EU through the Next Generation resilience funds by means of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAPA), whose purpose is to take advantage of the organic waste (both solid and liquid) generated by the fishing processing industry to obtain bioplastics, specifically polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs).
BIOCENPLAS aims to prove to the fishing processing industry (canneries, cookers, processed products, frozen …) that, using biotechnology, the residual effluents and by-products that are generated, whose treatment involves an economic and social cost, are potential raw materials to produce biodegradable materials applicable as substitutes for traditional plastic.
There are several companies in the sector interested in valuing their waste and that support this project, such as Nueva Pescanova, Pescados Rubén, Ignacio González Montes, Atunlo or Mejillones Nidal.
The biotechnological system proposed by BIOCENPLAS looks forward to improving the sustainability in the sector by reducing waste production and energy consumption, as intended in projects financed with resilience funds.
The organic matter is converted, in a first stage, into volatile fatty acids, which are the food of the microbial culture and allow the biopolymer to accumulate inside the microbial cells. This biopolymer, once extracted from the accumulating biomass, will be converted to a bioplastic to be used as an alternative material to conventional plastics widely used in food such as polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene (LDPE and HDPE).
It is worth noting that the main advantage of this process is that the bioplastics produced can be managed with other organic waste, since they degrade in the environment in a few months, unlike conventional plastics, which can need hundreds of years to complete the process, and are responsible for significant chemical pollution, affecting nearby living beings. The replacement of conventional plastics with bioplastics will significatively reduce the current environmental impact of these materials producing, as well, a social benefit.
Currently, PHA of other by-products such as agricultural ones are already being produced. That is from carbohydrates; however, here lies the novelty of BIOCENPLAS, since it is about generating biopolymers from streams richer in proteins, with which, the final composition of the biopolymers will be different and therefore its potential applications.
BIOCENPLAS, a drive towards sustainable and environmentally friendly innovation in the fisheries processing sector
BIOCENPLAS aims to support businesses in the field in their commitment with circular economy and sustainability, reducing the usage of traditional plastic and seeking for technical, economical, and sustainable viable alternatives. In this way, business needs can be better met, as the current materials crisis emphasizes the importance of on-site production of critical raw materials in the value chain of every product, including food products.
All in all, BIOCENPLAS is an impulse towards the innovation of the fishing processing industry, prioritizing sustainability and respect for the environment.